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A ids and

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5

JOHN L. HAYES

A MANUAL

AND

TEXTS

OF SUMERIAN GRAMMAR

UNDENA

PUBLICATIONS

Malibu

1990

AIDS AND RESEARCH TOOLS IN ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN STUDIES

AIDS AND RESEARCH TOOLS IN ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN STUDIES

Editor: Giorgio Buccellati

This is an introductory pedagogical grammar, designed for readers with no previous knowledge of Sumerian or its writing system, to be used either with or without a teacher. It includes a general description of the language and its

writing system, and a series of 22 lessons. Each lesson includes: sign-list and vocabulary; cuneiform text(s); transliteration, transcription, and translation; linguistic commentary. The texts used are royal inscriptions of the Ur III period, presented in photograph or autograph. A certain amount of historical, archaeological, and cultural background is also included. While primarily meant for students of Mesopotamia who already are familiar with Akkadian, it is also designed for students of West-Semitic, who may know no Akkadian. For this latter audience, emphasis has been placed on transliteration and transcription, to enable the Manual to be used without learning the cuneiform signs.

Copyright (c) 1990 by Undena Publications

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, i ncluding photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 89-51971

ISBN 0-89003-198-3 (cloth) /0-89003-197-5 (paper)

Issued under the auspices of I1MAS-The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

UNDENA PUBLICATIONS, P.O. BOX 79, MALIBU, CALIFORNIA 90265

PREFACE

Anyone who has ever tried to learn or to teach Sumerian faces a difficult task. First of all, knowledge of Sumerian is still at an imperfect stage, with fundamental questions yet to be resolved. Second, there is a lack of both scholarly and pedagogical tools. Although a recent descriptive grammar exists, there is no up-to-date sign list or dictionary, and there is no text-book of any kind. This situation makes it difficult for both student and teacher, and makes it virtually impossible for someone to learn Sumerian without a teacher. The aim of this book is to help alleviate this situation. It is a textbook of the Sumerian language, based on the royal inscriptions of the Ur III period. It is self-contained, so that it will be of use to students with or without a teacher. It includes a general description of the Sumerian language and its writing system, and then a series of graduated lessons. Each lesson contains: sign-list and vocabulary; notes on selected vocabulary; text(s) in cunei­ form, either photograph or autograph; transliteration, transcription, and translation; line-by­ line commentary on the text. Each lesson concludes with discussions, arranged the­ matically, of grammatical issues raised by the text, and of the meaning, function, and historical context of the text. Later lessons also include supplementary texts for review and practice, with no new vocabulary or grammar. In each lesson the grammar has generally been presented inductively from the texts. Finally, there are several appendices, some treating more general topics, and some serving as reference; the last of these is an index to grammatical (and other) points. This book has been designed for a one-semester, three-hour per week class. It can serve as an introduction to the language for students who will not pursue their study of Sumerian any further, but it will also prepare students for more advanced work. Two possible audiences are envisaged. The first is composed of those students who are comfortable in Akkadian, and who wish to learn Sumerian principally because of their interest in Mesopotamia. The second is composed of those students who are more comfortable in West-Semitic, and who wish to learn Sumerian principally because of their interest in Ebla. The latter audience will either not have studied Akkadian at all, or will have studied it at some time in the distant past, and may have forgotten much. A certain amount of material for this latter audience is included which will already be known to those who are familiar with Akkadian. Throughout, a knowledge of basic linguistic terms and concepts has been assumed. Since the learning of cuneiform signs often seems like an onerous chore for those students primarily interested in West-Semitic, the book has been designed with sufficient emphasis on transliteration and transcription to allow it to be used without learning the signs. This book is based on the language of the royal inscriptions of the Ur III period. It is thus a grammar solely of the written form of the language. It attempts to be purely synchronic, avoiding a mixture of synchronic and diachronic levels. At the same time, areas of disagreement about the language are pointed out. Some stress has been placed on the methodological principles involved in studying a language like Sumerian. Since many of the problems in understanding Sumerian phonology, morphology, and even syntax are

like Sumerian. Since many of the problems in understanding Sumerian phonology, morphology, and even syntax are

iii

iv

Preface

rooted in difficulties with the script, a certain emphasis has been placed on the nature of the Sumeriim writing system. In order to give an idea of the context in which the texts are rooted, some archaeological, historical, and cultural information is included. Similarly, typological observations about the Sumerian language have been pointed out, to show that there are other languages which work in ways similar to Sumerian. Because of the limited subject-matter of the texts which are used here, not all features of the language are encountered. Some of these features are touched upon in Lesson 23, where some alternative views of Sumerian grammar are sketched. Appendix 5 discusses the ways by which students, including those working alone, can deepen their understanding of Sumerian. This book will be followed by a second volume, consisting of heavily annotated extracts from Inanna ' s Descent. The reading of a major literary text will intro­ duce students to a number of problems not encountered in reading the rather stereotyped texts used in this book. Appendix 4 is a basic bibliography of the most important and interesting books and articles on Sumerian. In order for students to become become acquainted with the names of some of the scholars in the field, a number of modern-day Assyriologists and Sumerolo­ gists are quoted throughout the book; all works so quoted are listed in Appendix 4� The genesis of this book goes back to my teaching of Sumerian at the University of California at Los Angeles. It is a pleasure to thank those who have helped out along the way. Thorkild Jacobsen was my first teacher of Sumerian; his influence can easily be seen throughout the book. Sara Denning-Bolle graciously drew the cuneiform signs used in the sign-lists and those scattered throughout the book; I am especially grateful to her. Barbara De Marco made a number of useful stylistic observations, and helped in the overall structure. Several individuals read earlier gestations; I would especially like to thank Daniel Foxvog, Samuel Greengus, and Stephen Lieberman. Other individuals read certain sec­ tions; I thank Denise Schmandt-Besserat and Russell Schuh. James Platt, who studied from this book, made a number of suggestions. Christopher Walker helped me attain access to a number of photos from the British Museum. Giorgio Buccellati helped in many ways, from the initial conception to the final product. And, I would like to thank the staff at Undena Publications, especially Frank Comparato and Patricia Oliansky. Faults remaining are my own; I would be very grateful to hear from readers with suggestions for revisions. I would like to dedicate this book to my mother, for her support and encouragement over all the years.

19

23

57

65

73

CONTENT S

PREFACE

.

INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION

Importance of Sumerian Difficulties in studying Sumerian Historical background and texts used

i

1

1

2

PART ONE: THE SUMERIAN LANGUAGE

CLASSIFICATION

. Linguistic affiliation

Dialects Typological characteristics

. . . .
.
.
.
.

Ergativity

Agglutination .

WRITING SYSTEM . External characteristics

Original nature . Internal principles Transliteration Transcription

PHONOLOGY Problems Vowels Consonants Other features

.

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5

PART TWO:

LESSONS IN SUMERIAN GRAMMAR

2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4 Lesson 5 PART TWO: LESSONS IN SUMERIAN GRAMMAR v 5 5

v

5

5

5

7

7

10

11

11

12

13

14

16

18

18

20

25

47

vi

Contents

79

85

299

Lesson 6

Lesson 7

Lesson 8

Lesson 9 Lesson 10 .

Lesson

. Lesson 12 .

Lesson 13

Lesson 14

Lesson 15

Lesson 16

Lesson 17

Lesson 18

Lesson

Lesson 20

Lesson

Lesson 22

Lesson 23

. . . . . . . . . . .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

11

19

21

PART THREE: APPENDICES

Appendix 1:

Appendix 2:

Appendix 3:

Appendix 4:

Appendix 5:

Appendix

6:

History . Mesopotamian sources Glossary Bibliography Abbreviations Works cited Concordance of texts Further work Topical index

Works cited Concordance of texts Further work Topical index 9 5 1 0 1 1 0

95

101

109

1 17

129

147

157

165

181

191

205

21 1

223

23 1

245

257

265

273

283

291

291

291

305

309

Contents

vii

47

49

93

Text 1:

Text 2:

Text 2:

Text 3a:

Text 3a:

Text 3b:

Text 3c:

Text 4:

Text

4a:

Text

Text

Text 7a:

Text 7b:

Text 7c:

Text 8:

Text

Text

Text

Text

Text

Text

Text

Text 12a:

Text 13a:

l 1 a:

lOa:

5:

6:

8a:

9:

10:

1

1 :

12:

Text 13b:

Text 13c:

Text 14:

Text 14a:

Text 15:

Text 16:

Text 16a:

Text 17:

Text 17:

Text 18:

Text 18a:

Text 19:

Text 19a:

Text 20:

Text 21a:

Text 21 b:

TEXTS and ILLUSTRATIONS

brick

brick of Ur-Nammu - photograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - photograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph brick ofUr-Nammu - autograph votive bowl of Ur-Nammu - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph cone of Ur-Nammu - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph

of Ur-Nammu

- autograph

29

57

59

60

63

66

72

75

81

86

87

. . . . . . . .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

fo unda tion tablet of Ur- N ammu - ph otograph

brick

brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph door socket of Ur-Nammu - autograph

ofUr-Nammu -

autograph

96

99

102

1 10 1 1 6

120

128

131

144

149

150

155

159

164

167- 168

brick ofUr-Nammu - autograph

brick

weight of Shulgi - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - autograph

wig of Shulgi - autograph brick of Ur-Nammu - photograph vase of Ur-Nammu - autograph door socket of Shulgi - autograph

brick

brick of Amar-Sin - autograph

of Ur-Nammu

- autograph

of Amar-Sin

- autograph

brick ofAmar-Sin - autograph brick ofAmar-Sin - autograph

socket of Amar-Sin -

of Shulgi

socket

socket

socket

- autograph

cone of Ur-Nammu - autograph pedestal of Amar-Sin - autograph

door

bead

door

door

door

bead

door socket of Shu-Sin - autograph

autograph

183

189

191

194

206

210

214

221

226

23 1

234

of Amar-Sin - photograph of Amar-Sin - autograph of Shu-Sin - autograph

- autograph

of Shulgi

- autograph

brick of Shu-Sin - autograph weight of Shu-Sin - photograph

amulet of Amar-Sin

seal of Ibbi-Sin - autograph

viii

Contents

Text 21c:

Text 21d:

Text 22:

Text 22:

Text22a:

. weight of Shulgi - photograph and autograph seal of Shulgi - photograph seal of Shulgi - autograph seal of Ur-Nammu - photograph and autograph

seal of lbbi-Sin - autograph

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

reconstruction of ziggurat of Ur-Nammu remains of ziggurat of Ur-Nammu Stela ofUr-Nammu Old Akkadian brick-stamps figurine of Ur-Nammu

reconstruction of ziggurat of Nabonidus

duck weight

door socket of Inanna Temple Neo-BabyIonianpedestal

Old Akkadian seal .

.

.

.

241

243

245

249

255

42

42

43

53

92

107

1 12

145

179

236

finponBnce of Swnerian

INTRODUCTION

For students of Mesopotamia, the need to study Sumerian is obvious. Alongside Akkadian, Sumerian is of prime importance for reconstructing many aspects of Mesopotamian history and culture. However, a knowledge of Sumerian is also useful for those students primarily interested in Semitic linguistics, and for those interested in biblical studies. For Semitists, Sumerian is of importance because of its pervasive influence upon Akkadian - influence upon the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. Only through a knowledge of Sumerian can one differe ntiate between features of Akkadian which are a product of its Semitic ancestry, and those which have arisen secondarily under the influence of Sumerian. Even though Eblaite has only been known for a sport while, it is clear that its study will have a profound effect on Semitic linguistics. However, the majori ty of the texts found at Ebla are written in pure Sumerian, not in Eblaite. The remaining texts, although written in the Eblaite language, are couched in a Sumerian writing system which obscures many of the actual Eblaite forms. This means that a knowledge of Sumerian, especially a thorough understanding of the principles underlying the Sumerian writing system, is of importance forresearch in Eblaite.

Difficulties in studying Swnerian

Sumerian is not as well understood as is Akkadian; a number of features in the morphology and in the syntax are not clear. Although there has been considerable linguistic progress in the last two decades, enough still remains unsure so that scholars often have widely divergent views about Sumerian. Some of the reasons for these difficulties are summarized here; they will be discussed in more detail in the course of this book. (1) Sumerian is not genetically related to any other known language, living or dead. By contrast, it was discovered early-on that Akkadian was a Semitic language. This genetic relationship aided early scholars in their reconstruction of Akkadian grammar and vocabulary. But in the case of Sumerian, there is no such help available. (2) The writing system of Sumerian only imperfectly mirrors the spoken language; it does not indicate all the grammatical features which are known to have existed in the spoken language. This schematic nature of the script makes it very difficult to reconstruct the morphology. (3) There are many instances of sentences which seem to differ only slightly in their morphology or syntax. But with no comparative evidence, and with no native speakers to turn to, it is difficult to determine what these differences in morphology and syntax may mean. There are undoubtedly many nuances of meaning which cannot be determined at all. It has been remarked by Igor Diakonoff, "It is a joke well known among

of meaning which cannot be determined at all. It has been remarked by Igor Diakonoff, "It

2

ManualofSwnerian

Assyriologists that there are as many Sumerian languages as there are Sumerologists" (1976:99). Similarly, ThorkildJacobsen has recently said:

Knowledge of Sumerian is still in a rudimentary, experimental stage where scholars differ on essential points, so that translations, even by highly competent scholars, may diverge so much that one would never guess that

Scholars have not yet been able to agree on

they rendered the same

basic grammar and its restraints (1987:xv). In certain ways, however, it is actually easier to study Sumerian than it is to study, for example, Akkadian. This is because Sumerian does not have (at least, there is not visible) a great deal of "morphology"; there are not a large number of grammatical forms to learn. There is nothing like the weak-verb systems of Akkadian and Hebrew, which require a great deal of sheer memorization. Rather, many students find the difficulties to be more

conceptual in nature: the language works in ways different than English, or other languages which students are likely to have been exposed to. It is sometimes difficult to understand some of these principles, and even more difficult to observe these principles in action.

Historical background and texts used

The texts utilized here are all royal inscriptions of the Ur III Dynasty (approximately 2112-2004 BC), sometimes referred to as the Neo-Sumerian Dynasty. It grew out of the vacuum left by the collapse of the Dynasty of Akkad, which had been ruled by Akkadian­ speaking kings of Semitic stock (approximately 2334-2193 BC). The Ur III Dynasty was founded by Ur-Nammu, who ruled in the city of Ur from about 2112 to 2095. He had previously been governor of Ur under the suzerainty of the king of Uruk, Utu-Hengal; he may have been a relative of the latter. At some point he declared himself independent. During his rule, and especially during the rule of his son Shulgi, the territory controlled by Ur expanded, until it reached most of the area previously controlled by the rulers of Akkad, that is, most of central and southern Mesopotamia. After three more descendants of Ur-Nammu, the dynasty collapsed in 2004, partially due to pressures from the intrusion of nomadic, Semitic-speaking tribes. Thus, the Ur III period lasted a little more than a century; with the fall of Ur, Sumerian civilization, for all intents and purposes, also fell. Ur III was a period of relative calm and stability in much of Mesopotamia. Because of the blooming of Sumerian art and literature, which had been somewhat submerged under the Semitic dynasty of Akkad, this period is often called the "Sumerian Renaissance". Towns were fortified, many temples were rebuilt, and canals were dredged; trade with various foreign countries flourished. The city of Ur itself, the capital of the Ur III Dynasty, was primarily excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley, perhaps the most famous of all Near Eastern archaeologists. The principal results were published by him and others in a series entitled Ur Excavations. Ten volumes have appeared: Volume I in 1929, and Volume VII in 1976 (Volume X appeared in 1951). Woolley popularized his results in a one-volume work entitled Ur of the

in 1976 (Volume X appeared i n 1951). Woolley popularized his results in a one-volume work

Introduction

3

Chaldees (1929). After Woolley's death, P.R.S. Moorey revised and updated the work; it appeared as Ur 'of the Chaldees' (1982). This is a readable and interesting description of the city at different historical periods. Many Ur III texts have been preserved. The vast majority are economic and administrative; these number in the tens of thousands. Unfortunately, there are very few texts of what might be called a "historical" nature. There is much that is not known about such matters as Ur-Nammu's rise to power, the internal politics of the Ur III Dynasty, or

even the physical extent of the Ur III "Empire"; C. J. Gadd refers to the "tantalizing want

of information due to the singular unwillingness of the age to record even the triumphs,

much less the failures, ofits kings" (1971:617). Some original literary texts are also preserved from this period, as well as older works now committed to writing. Jacobsen says that the kings ofUr Ill, especially Shulgi, were much concerned to preserve extant older literary works and to encourage the creation of new ones. The court background of these works is A major portion of Sumerian Literature as we have it traces back to the court of the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur, where it was composed and performed by the royal bards (1987:xii, 277). The royal inscriptions of the Ur III kings have been the object of study by W. W. Hallo. According to Hallo's definition, royal inscriptions are texts which "were dedicated

either by, or to, or on behalf of the king" (1962:1). Hallo catalogued these texts, providing

a standard system of reference. He also studied the different sub-types of royal

inscriptions, categori zing them according to their fu nction and according to their form. These texts range in difficulty, from quite simple to very complex. They also contain a high degree of formulaity; many of the epithets of the king, for example, occur in a large number of the inscriptions. Even the phrasing of the verbal expressions is rather fixed. Since the genre of royal inscriptions existed both before and after the time of Ur III (in Sumerian and in Akkadian), a knowledge of the Ur III texts gives immediate access to

othersimilar texts. There has been much recent discussion about when Sumerian ceased to be a spoken

language. This is not an easy question to answer; there are both historical issues and issues

of general linguistics to resolve. (The subject is further discussed in Appendix 1.) Most

Sumerologists would say that Sumerian was a living spoken language in Sumer during the Ur III period, although some would say that it was already starting to die out during the latter part of this period. A minority would say that spoken Sumerian was either pretty far on its road to extinction, or might even have ceased to be a spoken language by the end of the Ur III period. Even the proponents of this view, however, would admit that the language of the Ur III royal inscriptions is "good" Sumerian, unlike some Sumerian of later periods.

that the language of the Ur III royal inscriptions is "good" Sumerian, unlike some Sumerian of

PART ONE: THES UME IDAN LAN GUA GE

Lin guistic affiliation

CLA S S IFICA TION

Sumerian appears to be what is called a language-isolate, that is, it has no genetic connection with any known language, living or dead. Attempts have been made to link Sumerian with many different languages - the most popular have been Hungarian, Turkish, Caucasoid, Dravidian, and the Indus Valley language(s) - but none of these has found general acceptance. Such attempts have usually been based on surface-level resemblances with languages which are typologically similar. A. Leo Oppenheim has pointed out:

The fact that Sumerian is a complic ated though very well understood language which cannot be linked to any other known language has created during the past hundred years a large literature attempting to relate Sumerian to practically all languages between Polynesia and Africa. The authors of such studies unfailingly "prove" that either their own language or a language in which they happen to be interested is related to ancient Sumeri an (197 1 :219).

has every appearance of being

a 'loner', in spite of numerous attempts to fo ist relatives upon it, some grotesquely

improbable"(1973:38).

The possibility that a connection might be found with some other language is slim. Any related languages have probably died off without leaving any written records. The original homeland of the Sumerians is unknown, so it is not even clear where its possible linguistic relatives might be located. Wherever such a homeland might be, it was probably not in an area where writing developed very early.

Dialects

Sir Gerard Clauson has summed this up: "Sumerian

The Sumerians referred to their own language by a term often transliterated as: eme­

gir15. The value of the second sign is not sure, and so the term is variously transliterated as eme-gi 7' eme-lrn, etc., especially in older secondary literature. erne means "tongue" in Sumerian. The meaning of gir l S is unsure. Older scholars thought that it meant "Sumer"; in that case, the term would mean "language of Sumer". More recently it has been argued that the term means something like "noble, prince"; erne-gir l S would then mean "the noble language". Because of the uncertainties in reading this word, the term "Main Dialect" is often used instead.

word, the term "Main Dialect" is often used instead. There is also a "dialect" called erne-
word, the term "Main Dialect" is often used instead. There is also a "dialect" called erne-

There is also a "dialect" called erne-sal.

The meaning of the second element of the

name is uncertain; it may mean "fine, thin". The "status" of this dialect is also uncertain. It has traditionally been called a "women's language", because it appears in literary texts of the

Old Babylonian period, used by women when speaking to other women. For example, in the myth "Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld", when Inanna speaks to her aide Nin-

5

6

ManualofSumerian

Shubur, she does so in Emesal. There is no consistency in this usage; in other texts Inanna may speak in Main Dialect. Moreover, in texts of the later Old Babylonian period Emesal is also used fo r specific genres of text. Certain kinds of lamentations are always written in Emesal, even though recited by male priests. (Texts in some of these genres were preserved and even composed in schools for a thousand years after Sumerian had ceased to be a spoken language.) This use by men makes it difficult to determine exactly what Emesal is, and whether or not it should be classified as a "dialect". Emesal is well-attested from the beginning of the Old Babylonian period on. However, there appear to be at least one or two Emesal forms in the Gudea texts, and there has been a recent attempt to see Emesal fo rms in a group of texts written in an unusual orthography from Tell Abu Salabikh (approximately 2600 BC). Emesal differs from Main Dialect in phonology and in the lexicon, but not apparently in morphology. In phonology, the Emesal forms often appear to be older. For ex ample, the word for "lord" in Main Dialect is len/, in Emesal lumun/. It is difficult to say exactly what the more original fo rm was; it may have been something like */ewenl or */uwun/. In any case, the Emesal form appears more conservative than the Main Dialect form. According to other scholars, however, Emesal forms are lingui stically the more innovative; Emesal forms result from consonants being sh ifted to a more fronted or to a hi gher place of articulation. For example, Main Dialect Igl > Emesal Ib/; Main Dialect Idl > Emesal Iz/, etc. But there are several exceptions to these general principles, and there are a number of details of Emesal phonology which are not clear. As an example from the lexicon, the Main Dialect word for the interrogative "what?" is lana/; the Emesal form is /tal. These are apparently two etymologically distinct words. It has been claimed that Emesal shares certain characteristics of "women's languages" which occur elsewhere in the world. In particular, women's languages are said to differ from "standard" dialects in phonology - the women's dialect being more con servative than the standard dialect - and in the lexicon. More work needs to be done in defining the characteristics ofEmesal, and in comparing Emesal with other women's languages. Not much is known about geographical variation within Sumerian. The extent of the Sumerian-speaking area i unsure; Su merian texts are preserved from only a rather limited area. Moreover, the nature of the Sumerian writing system makes it difficult to see such vanatlOn. Only traces can be fo und, partic ularly in the later periods. There was undoubtedly more dialectal variation present than the writing system allows us to see. Similarly, although Sumerian was spoken over a long period of time, there does not appear to be much variation before the Old Babylonian period. More differentiation is noticeable in post-Old Babylonian periods, when Sumerian was no longer a spoken langu age. But here the differences may refl ect the practices of di fferent scribal schools and scribal centers, and not differences which were originally in spoken Sumerian. There are occasional references in late Sumerian texts to what are apparently specialized languages, or jargons of particular occupations. For example, there are passing references to eme-utula, "the language of shepherds", and to eme-ma-Iah 4 -�' "the language of sailors". It is hard to say what these dialects or jargons were like. Similarly, there are only passing references to what may be some kind of "literary dialects": erne-gal, "great

only passing references to what may be some kind of "literary dialects": e rn e -
only passing references to what may be some kind of "literary dialects": e rn e -

Classification

7

Classification 7 language", eme-sukud, " h i g h l a n g u a g

language", eme-sukud, "high language", etc. mean.

T ypological characteristics

" , e t c . mean. T ypological characteristics It is not known what these

It is not known what these designations

There are several ways in which Sumerian works differently than the Semitic or Indo­ European languages. Consider the Akkadian sentence, "The king went":

(1)

�arrum

illik

VERB

bItam house-ACC
bItam
house-ACC

king-NOM

Now, consider the Akkadian sentence, "The king built the house":

(2)

Ipu

VERB

Sarrum

king-NOM

In Akkadian, "king" is the subject in both sentences: It is the subject of an intransitive verb in sentence (1), and the subject of a transitive verb in sentence (2). Therefore, in both sentences it is put into the nominative case, Sarrum. In sentence (2), "house" is the direct object of a transitive verb, and so it is put into the accusative case, bItam. Languages in which the subject of a transitive verb and the subject bf an intransitive verb are marked one way (called the "nominative" case), and the direct object is marked a different way (called the "accu sative" case), are ofte n called "accusa tive" languages (or "nominative-accusative"languages). Sumerian, on the other hand, is what is called an "ergative" language. In an ergative language, what we consider to be the subject of a transitive verb is marked by the "ergative" case. But, what we consider to be the subject of an intransitive verb, and what we consider to be the direct object of a transitive verb, are both marked by the "absolute" case. In some ergative languages the ending for the ergative case, and the ending for the absolute case, may look completely different. In other ergative languages, the ergative case will have one marking, but the absolute case will be unmarked. ("Unmarked" can also be understood as "marked by zero". This can be symbolized by "zero": 0.) In other languages, there is no case-marking on any of the nouns; rather, ergativity is reflected in the way that certain elements within the verb cross-reference the case relationships. In Sumerian, sentences (1) and (2) would be expressed as follows (Here and elsewhere, a period is used to sep arate morpheme s; the verb forms have been slightly simplified):

(3)

(4)

luga1.0

king-ABS

i.gin

VERB

e.0 house-ABS
e.0
house-ABS

luga1.e

king-ERG

mu.n.du

VERB

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ManualofSumerian

In (3), the subject of the intransitive verb is marked by .0, the absolute case-marker. In (4), the subject of the transitive verb is marked by .e, the ergative case-marker, while the direct object is marked by .0, the absolute case-marker. This fits the definition of an ergative language: The subject of a transitive verb is marked one way (in Sumerian, by .e), while the subject of an intransitive verb , and the direct object of a transitive verb , are marked a different way (in Sumerian, by .0). Ergativity is a different way of marking the primary participants in a sentence. In an accusative language, the subject of a transitive verb and the subject of an intransitive verb fall into one grammatical category; in an ergative language, the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb fa ll into one gramm atical category. Cons ider the two English sentences, "The ball rolled down the hill", and "The boy rolled the ball down the hill". In English, "ball" in the first sentence is the subject, but in the second sentence it's the direct object. Yet in each case, it's the ball that is rolling down the hill. In an ergative language, "ball" would be in the absolute case in both the first and second sentences, and "boy" would be in the ergative case in the second sentence. In this example, an ergative language seems to capture our intuitions about the role of the ball in these two sentences better than does our accusative language. In the above discussion, the term s "subject" and "objec t" were used. However, it is imprecise (and unjustified on theoretical grounds) to use these two terms when talking about an ergative language. Most linguists prefer to use the term "agent" to refer to the subject of the transitive verb (marked by the ergative case), and the term "patient" to refer both to the subject of the intransitive verb, and to the direct object of a transitive verb (both marked by the absolute case). Thus, in the examples above, "boy" is the agent, and "ball" is the patient. In practice, it is very difficult to escape using such common terms as "subject" and "object", especially in unambiguous contexts, even if these terms do not really fit Sumerian. There are many ergative languages in the world, belonging to a number of different language families: many languages in Austra lia, many American Indian languages, the Caucasoid languages (for example, Georg ian), Ba sque, to name a few. However, none of what are sometimes referred to as the "major cultural languages" of Europe are ergative, and so the concept is unfamiliar. There are two other important points about ergativity. First, the definition given above describes what may be called "minimally" ergative languages. However, ergativity can also be reflected in other parts of a language's grammatical system - it may affect verbal agreement, cross-referencing of case-markers, coordination and subordination, etc. This will be discussed in more detail later. Second, there appear to be very few (if any) "pure" ergative languages. Most (perhaps all) ergative languages are "split". In certain constructions, the language behaves in an ergative manner; in other constructions, the language behaves in an accusative manner. In Sumerian, for instance, the perfect aspect functions in an ergative manner, while the imperfect aspect functions in an accusative manner. That is, Sumerian is split along an aspectual axis. There are other languages in the world which are split along exactly such an axis, that is, the perfect aspect functions in an ergative manner, and the imperfect aspect

Classification

9

functions in an accusative manner. Also, the independent pronouns in Sumerian function basically on an accusative, not an ergative, basis. Languages of the world show a rather bewildering variety and complexity in the ways that they are split. In addition, there are languages which use an ergative - absolute differentiation to mark semantic distinctions which are not easily made in the Semitic or Indo-European languages. An oft-cited example is the sentence "We fell" in Bats, a member of the Caucasoid language family, spoken in Georgia. If the act of fa lling is purely an accident, outside of our control, the subject of the sentence is in the absolute case. If we fell as a result of our own action, the subject is in the ergative case. Other languages use an ergative - absolute differentiation to mark other kinds of information, such as degrees of animacy. Because there are very few (if any) pure ergative languages, it is perhaps best not to think of "ergative - accusative" as a simple binary opposition. C.T. van Aalderen has said that "One suspects that the whole phenomenon is more a continuum than a set of oppositions" (1 982:27). That is, some languages are closer to one "pole" than to the other. Several recent linguists, for example, speak of "degrees of ergativity" in different languages. In the last twenty years or so, general linguists have shown a great deal of interest in ergative languages; the bibliography of recent works is vast. In one of the more recent articles, John Du Bois says:

Seemingly, ergativity stands as a challenge to the view that all languages are

Why are there ergative languages in the would seem somewhat perverse in splitting up an

built on one universal

world?

Ergativity

apparently basic category like subject, assigning half its contents to a contrasting category like object. This perception of unnaturalness is of course only an index of our fail ure to appreh end the actual basis of ergativity, a difficulty which is simply reinforced by traditional grammatical terminology (1 987 :805-7). It is only somewhat recently that the term ergative has been systematically used for Sumerian. Although some early researchers had intimations that this was how Sumerian worked (even if all the details were unclear, as they still are), it is only in the last few years that ergativity has been explicitly discussed in Sumeri an. This means that in reading even fairly recent Sumerological literature, such concepts and terms as "ergative", "agent", "patient", etc ., may not be used at all. The material might be discussed in what would now be called an ergative model, without use of the term ergative, or in older works the material

might be presented in an accusative model. Moreover, not all scholars believe that Sumerian functions on an ergative basis. Some Sumerologists believe that not enough evidence has been presented to prove the case, and also believe that there are too many "exceptions" to the model. Others disagree on the degree to which Sumerian can be said to be split. Given the complexities of split ergativity in the languages of the world, it may be that current presentations of ergativity in Sumerian are too simplistic. "Full" proofcan only be forthcoming when there is more secure knowledge of Sumerian verbal morphology. The first person to apply the term ergative to Sumerian was apparently Viktor Christian in 1957, although he used the term a little differently than it is usually understood.

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Diakonoff ( 1 965) sketched the system of ergativity in Sumerian and other Ancient Near Eastern languages, without explaining the details of morphology. The articles by Daniel Foxvog (1975) and Piotr Michalowski ( 1 980a) viewed Sumerian in an explicitly ergative

verbal morphology. Van Aalderen (198 2) has explored

some of the theoretical issues in more detail. The grammar by Marie-Louise Thomsen ( 1 98 4) also follows a split-ergative model. A recent survey of ergativity in Sumerian is by Gong Yushu ( 1987).

framework , while eluc idating the

Agglutination

Sumerian is often described as an "agglutinative" language. This term goes back to the nineteenth century, when linguists attempted to classify the languages of the world into a few basic types, ba sed solely on typological (not genetic) criteri a. For these linguists, the three most common types of language could be classified as:

Isolating

In isolating languages, virtually every morpheme forms a separate "word". In Chinese, for example, there are no tense-markers on verbs; such information is conveyed by separate adverbs. There are also no plural-markers on nouns or verbs; this information is conveyed by separate number-words.

Fusional

In fusional languages, such as Akkadian or Latin, grammatical morphemes are expressed through endings on nouns or verbs, and several different morphemes tend to "fuse" together. Latin amo, for example, means "I love". The /0/ ending on the verb signals several things: the verb is first person, singular, present tense, indicative mood, active voice. However, none of the morphemes for person, number, tense, mood, or voice can be segmented out - they are all fu sed into the ending /0/.

be segmented out - they are all fu sed into the ending /0/. Agglutinative In agglutinative

Agglutinative

In agglutinative languages, as in fu sional languages, several grammatical morphemes are combined into one word. However, the morphemes are distinct from each other; they do not fuse together. In an agglutinative language, strings of prefixes or suffixes tend to occur; each affix is formally distinct, and expresses one morpheme. The parade example of a language of this type is Turkish. In Turkish, the phrase "from his houses" is expressed as: evlerinden. Ev means "house", ler is the plural marker, in is the possessive pronoun "his", and den is the postposition expressing the ablative "from". In general, each affix expresses one morpheme; each morpheme is invariant: ler is the automatic plural marker for all nouns; den means "from" after any nominal phrase, etc. The morphemes are distinct, not fu sed into each other. Sumerian is similar to Turkish. The verbal phrase, for example, consists of a string of prefixes, followed by the verbal root, and then a smaller string of suffixes. Each affix expresses one morpheme, and each affix is (basically) invariant. Nominal phrases can be very long, with a noun, modifying adjectives and appo sitives, genitive phrases, etc., with a

Nominal phrases can be very long, with a noun, modifying adjectives and appo sitives, genitive phrases,

Writingsystem

11

case-marker at the end of the entire nominal phrase. The typological scheme presented here has been somewhat simplified. Moreover, languages only tend to one category or the other; they are not "purely" isolating, fu sional, or agglutinative. English, for example, is largely isolating, but it is also to some degree

formation. In English

words such as "predictability" or "antidisestablishmentarianism", it is fairly easy to separate several different morphemes, both as prefixes and as suffixes. Most modern linguists who specialize in linguistic typology are not very interested in this particular "morphological typology". They believe that such a scheme is not especially useful, because it does not offer any interesting or helpful intuitions or generalizations about language. The methodological underpinning of this classification scheme has also been attacked on several grounds. For example, it was mentioned above that languages do not usually fall neatly into one of these types. However, since the term agglutinative is still used in Sumerological literature, especially in popular descriptions of the language, it is useful to have some idea ofwhat the term means. The two terms ergative and agglutinative refer to different categorie s. The ergative - accusative distinction depends on how the primary participants in a sentence are marked in relation to each other. The isolating - fusional - agglutinative distinction refers to the different ways that morp hemes are combined into word s. In theory, a language can be either ergative or accusative, and also either isolating or fusional or agglutinative, although not all of these possible categories seem to occur.

fu sional. It is occa sionally agglutinative in its processes of word

WRITING SYSTEM

External characteristics

In discussing any writing system, there are two factors to consider: the external characteristics of the script, and the principles behind the script. Because of the external shape of the signs in the Sumerian script, its writing system is called "cuneiform". "Cuneus" is the Latin word for "wedge"; the term was coined because of the most striking characteristic of the script - the fact that the signs are built up of strokes looking like little wedges. (The term cuneiform was appare ntly first used by one Thomas Hyde in 17 00. In his Historia re ligionis veterum Persarum, he refers to "dactuli pyra­ midales seu cuneiformei".) The cuneiform signs were in scribed by means of a stylus probably formed from an actual reed (such as still grows in modern-day Iraq), by impressing the stylus upon a tablet of moist clay (or, occasionally, upon other surfaces). The stylus could also be made of bone, metal, hardwood, or even other material. The first cuneiform texts discovered were all relatively late, from a period when the wedge-shaped characteristics of the script were most striking. In the earliest phases of the script, however, this wedge-shaped character is less pronounced; the script of most of the Ur III inscriptions in this book does not look nearly as wedge-shaped as do later texts.

the script of most of the Ur III inscriptions in this book does not look nearly

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The tenn cuneifonn refers solely to the external shape of the individual signs. Cuneifonn script was adopted and modified by many peoples of the Ancient Near East; it was used to write Akkadian, Ugaritic, Hurrian, Persian, etc. However, the fact that these languages use signs with the same general external characteristics says nothing about their possible genetic relationship. Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian, and Persian, for example, belong to fo ur entirely unrelated language families. Expressions such as "cun eifonn language" are occasionally encountered, but this is a rather imprecise way of referring to one or several languages, which may or may not be related, which use a script with the same external characteristics.

Original nature

The writing system used for English is an attempt to render speech as closely as possible. Although English does suffer from numerous archaic spellings, and there are certain fe ature s (such as upper and lower-case letters) which are found only in writing, writing is basically an attempt to reproduce speech sounds. By contrast, the Sumerian writing system was never an exact, phonetic representation of speech; it was not "designed" to reproduce spoken language as such. Rather, to some degree the writing system is only a mnemonic device, to jog the memory of the writer and reader. The earliest uses of writing were for administrative texts, which were of a fonnulaic nature, and whose contents were familiar to the scribes. There was no need to write down what would be obvious to a scribe who was a native speaker of Sumerian, and who was familiar with the material being written. When such scribes "read" the texts, they knew how to supply the infonnation not indicated explicitly in the writing. Thus, a certain amount of infonnation in the spoken language was not expressed in the writing. The further back in time one goes, the less the Sumerian writing system expresses grammatical elements which are assumed to have been present in the spoken language. For example, the basic graphic shape representing the root for "to build" was originally a picture of a wooden peg. In the earliest Sumerian, this one sign could be used for any inflected fonn of the verb: any tense, mood, or person. Similarly, the expression for "on that day" in Sumerian was: ud-bi-� ("day-that-on"). But in the earliest Sumerian, only the ud-sign was written; the reader inferred the rest. As might be imagined, this lack of explicitness in the script can cause much trouble in interpreting Sumerian texts. Nor is this problem limited to the earliest Sumerian texts; in late economic texts, for instance, it is often difficult to tell if something is being distributed "to" or "from" somebody. As time passed, the scribes wrote more and more down, that is, the writing became more and more explicit. For example, there is a Sumerian text known as the "Kesh Temple Hymn", attested in several copies mostly from the Old Babylonian period (dating to around 1 8 00 BC). In the 19 60s, a version of the same text was found at Tell Abu Salabikh, dating to about perhap s,2500 BC. Unfortu nately, only a fe w lines of the Tell Abu Salabikh version survive. But if one compares the Old Babylonian version with the Tell Abu Salabikh version, it can be seen that although the text itself is relatively stable, the Old Babylonian version indicates more verbal affixes than does the Tell Abu Salabikh version.

Writingsystem

13

This increase in explicitness may be connected with the fact that Sumerian was gradually dying out, and so scribes needed more help in their own understanding of texts. Thus, a fundamental feature of the Sumerian writing system is its lack of explicitness. It does not fully represent the spoken language. This has been summarized by Jacobsen:

"The history of Sumerian writing is one of progressively ever greater but never quite attained adjustment to Sumerian speech" (1957:366 n.1). Similarly, Marvin Powell has pointed out that "We find traces of its mnemonic character enduring to the very end of the Sumerian orthographic tradition" (1981 :421). A further complicating problem is that the writing system is to some degree morpheme-bound. There is indirect evidence to show that there were certain phonological changes which took place in Sumerian, such as contraction, vowel deletion, etc., but these changes are masked by the script; the script often reproduces the basic morpheme, without showing the changes which are assumed to have taken place in the spoken language. The view here presented, that the Sumerian writing system in origin and in practice is basically mnemonic, has been especially expounded by Diakonoff ( 1976) and Stephen Lieberman( 1977).

Internal principles

The script used for writing Sumerian is a combination of "logographic" and "syllabic" elements. Logographic means that a sign stands for a particular word. For example, the sign 4 stands for the word utu, "sun"; the sign � stands for the word digi!:, "god". The external shape of many of these signs is clearly pictographic in origin. Thus the sign for "sun" was originally a picture of the sun rising over a mountain. The sign for "god" was originally a picture of a star. The original significance of many signs cannot yet be determined. The same sign can often have more than one logographic value. Thus, the same sign can represent diEi!:, "god", or it can represent an, "sky". In general, it is only the context which determines the meaning of the sign, and its correct reading. Syllabic signs are used to reproduce a sequence of phonetic elements. For example, the sign is used to represent the syllable Iga/. This particular syllable can form a component of several different morphemes: it may be part of the cohortative prefix on verbs, or part of the ending of a genitive phrase on nouns, etc. The sign in these contexts does not stand for any particular word; rather, its purpose is to represent the phonetic sequence Igl-Iai, which may form part of a number of different morphemes. Syllabic signs can represent several different kinds of segments of consonants and vowels. Some syllabic signs stand for single vowels, e.g., and i. More common are signs standing for the sequence consonant-vowel (ba, mu) or vowel-consonant (fill, in). There are some signs that stand for consonant-vowel-consonant, but these are not common; instead, the script uses a convention that represents ICVCI by CV-Vc. For example, the

segment Inirl is written by:

this is purely an orthographic convention, to reduce the number of CVC-signs which would otherwise be necessary. Many signs have more than one syllabic value. Many signs have both logographic

than one syllabic value. Many signs have both logographic ni-ir. A writing such as ni-ir does
than one syllabic value. Many signs have both logographic ni-ir. A writing such as ni-ir does
than one syllabic value. Many signs have both logographic ni-ir. A writing such as ni-ir does

ni-ir. A writing such as ni-ir does not imply a long vowel;

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ManualofSumerian

and syllabic values - sometimes more than one of each. The correct value of the sign can usually only be derived from the context. Signs with more than one value are called "polyvalent", or are said to have several "readings". Thus, the Sumerian writing system is both logographic and syllabic. The syllabic value of most signs derives from a logographic value. For example, the sign in its meaning as "sky" is pronounced lan/. This phonetic value was then generalized, so that this sign can stand for the syllable lanl in other contexts. In general, lexical morphemes are written logographically, and grammatical morphemes are written syllabically, but this is not always the case. The system is complicated by the fact that certain syllabic signs tend to be used for certain morphemes. For example, there is a "conjugation-prefix" on the verb, pronounced Ibi!. There are several different possible ways that this phonetic sequence could be represented in the script. In practice, however, the scribes almost always used only one of these possibilities, the sign. That is, certain morphemes tend to be indicated in only one way, and, conversely, certain signs tend to be used only for certain morphemes. In addition to logographic and syllabic signs, there are a few other elements present in the script. One of these is "determinatives". Determinatives are signs which are used to indicate the general semantic class to which a following (occasionally a preceding) noun belongs. For example, almost all divine names are preceded by the sign �; this sign tells the scribe that "what follows is a divine name". Most names of countries are followed by the sign -+; this sign tells the scribe that "what precedes is the name of a country". Determinatives were probably not spoken, even when Sumerian was read out loud. They were only a feature of the written language. In other contexts, the cuneiform signs which function as determinatives can also function as logographic or syllabic elements. For example, the sign ¥ can represent digir, "god"; the sign can represent ki, "country". To sum up, Sumerian is mostly logographic, and only partially syllabic. Akkadian, on the other hand, is mostly syllabic, and only partially logographic. Persian cuneiform is almost entirely syllabic, and Ugaritic cuneiform is basically alphabetic. In practice, people sometimes confuse the issue, and the term cuneiform is occasionally used to refer in general to any logographic-syllabic system of writing, but this is wrong; there are many logographic-syllabic scripts which have existed in the world, which are not cuneiform. This has been a somewhat simplified discussion of the Sumerian writing system. There has been much recent discussion about the script, mostly hinging on theoretical questions, such as the difference between pictographic and logographic, or the degree to which the script is morpheme-bound.

Transliteration

When citing Sumerian texts, or when discussing Sumerian grammar or vocabulary, Sumerologists do not generally reproduce the original cuneiform signs. Rather, they cite the word or passage in transliteration into Latin characters. Transliteration is a sign-by-sign image of the original written text. It is designed specifically to reflect the actual cuneiform signs present. By looking at a transliteration, one should be able to determine exactly

to reflect the actual cuneiform signs present. By looking at a transliteration, one should be able

Writingsystem

15

which cuneiform signs occur in the original text (excluding palaeographic niceties). Transliteration serves several purposes. It is more convenient, quicker, and cheaper to produce Latin characters than it is to produce cuneiform characters. Also, it provides an approximate phonetic rendering of the signs occurring in the Sumerian. Since many Sumerian signs have more than one reading, a scholar, by giving the text in transliteration, explicitly states his opinion about the reading of a particular cuneiform sign. For example, the sign�can be read Hkur (the name of a god), or im ("wind"), or ni ("self'). Based on his understanding of the text, a scholar decides the correct reading. There are some complexities of transliteration. It is possible for several different cuneiform signs to have the same pronunciation. These signs must be differentiated in transliteration, so that the original cuneiform can be reconstructed from the transliteration. For example, there are at least four different signs pronounced as /u/. If y were used as the transliteration for all four signs, it would not be possible to go backward from the transliteration: Given a transliteration y, one could not tell which of the four possible signs actually was written in the cuneiform. To obviate this problem, scholars have devised the following system: The most common (or most important) sign with a particular value is unmarked. The second most common (or most important) sign with this same value is marked with an acute accent: g. The third most common (or most important) sign with this same value is marked with a grave accent: !l. The fourth, and higher, most common signs with this same value are marked with subscripts: .!4, liS ' etc. This system is purely arbitrary; it provides a convenient means to differentiate between signs pronounced alike, thus enabling us to reconstruct the cuneiform from the transliteration. This use of the acute and grave accent-marks as "indices" has nothing to do with pronunciation. They do not indicate anything about accent, nor do they indicate anything about vocalic length, nor do they indicate anything about tone. They are used instead of a possibleY 2 and Y 3 simply because it is easier to type accent marks (at least in Europe) than it is to turn the typewriter carriage up to make a subscript. These indices are based largely on frequency. However, these frequencies were determined on the basis of Akkadian texts, not on the basis of Sumerian texts (for the simple reason that Akkadian was "discovered" before Sumerian). This produces a certain inconsistency. In Sumerian, for example, the bi-sign is much more common than the bi­ sign. This inconsistency is not really a problem; the only other alternative would have been to devise a separate system for Sumerian, based on values and frequencies in Sumerian. But this would have engendered so much confusion and complication that it is far easier to work with the traditional system. Confusion arises when indices are used on bisyllabic signs, that is, signs which represent a segment of two syllables, such as /kala/ or /Urim/. If there is more than one sign with the same bisyllabic reading, some scholars put the accent-marks on the first vowel, then continue onto the second syllable if there are several signs with the same reading. Other scholars, however, begin with the last vowel, moving back to the first. Either system is prone to mechanical mistakes in printing, and the mere presence of the two different systems can cause problems in determining what the cuneiform sign actually was. To mitigate against this difficulty, some Sumerologists do not use acute or grave accent-

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ManualofSumerian

marks on bisyllabic signs. Instead, they use a subscript 2 or subscript 3 when necessary. For example, there are several signs with the value of /kala/. These are differentiated as:

signs with the value of /kala/. These are differentiated as: k a l a , k

kala, kala 2> kala 3 ' kala 4 ' etc. This is the system followed here. Some recent publications, including the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary, use subscripts in place of accent-marks,

even on monosyllabic signs. Thus, instead of !!, they use l! 2 ; instead of y,

Determinatives are a feature of the written language, and were probably not spoken.

To indicate that they were not pronounced, they are transliterated with superscript letters:

X ki , tug

X, etc. For convenience sake, the determinative for god (the iligir-sign) is trans­

they use l! 3 '

literated as a superscript d : d Btar. Because of the typographical difficulties of printing superscripts, some publications instead print the determinatives on the same print-line, connected by a period: X.ki; tug.x. In transl i teration, signs comprising one "word" are linked by hyphens: kalam-ma, illgir-ra-ni, etc. (Determinatives are an exception; no hyphens are used.) As will be seen below, it is not always easy to determine what constitutes a "word" in Sumerian. Some Sumerologists use initial capital letters in their transliteration of Sumerian proper names; other Sumerologists do not. Those who do not use them, consider capital letters to be a feature particular to the English writing system; since capital letters have no correlate in the Sumerian writing system, they should not be used in transliteration. Other scholars feel that since transliteration is an artificial device anyway, there is no harm in using capital letters, if they help make the text clearer to the reader. This second practice is followed here.

Finally, it is necessary to say a few words about the typographic conventions used in transliterating Sumerian. Throughout this book, Sumerian is transliterated by Roman characters, underlined. The few Akkadian citations used here follow the same system. However, it is occasionally inconvenient to use the same typographic conventions for two different languages. To solve this problem, many publications cite Sumerian in Roman characters, but widely-spaced. Thus, the word for "god" will be transliterated as: digir. This may seem like a convenient procedure to differentiate citations from the two languages, but it is prone to produce mechanical errors in printing. It is frequently the case that it is not known how a particular Sumerian sign (or word) is to be read. Some scholars elaborate the system just discussed, by presenting such doubtful or unsure readings in caps. For example, the word for "interest-bearing loan" in Sumerian is written:1lUI. It is not sure how the first sign is to be read. For this reason, the word is often cited as: IjAR-ra. Some scholars do, however, believe that they now know how to read this word, and so nowadays one is likely to see the reading: urS ­ ra. That is, wide-spaced Roman is used for the "standard" transliteration of Sumerian, and caps Roman is used for unsure readings. Not all Sumerologists follow this system, however, and what is sure for one scholar may be unsure for another scholar.

Transcription

Transliteration is, by definition, a reflection of the written language, and so does not necessarily reproduce the spoken language well (as we think we understand it). For this reason, most Sumerologists use some form of transcription in their study of Sumerian.

we think we understand it). For this reason, most Sumerologists use some form of transcription in
we think we understand it). For this reason, most Sumerologists use some form of transcription in

Writingsystem

17

Transcription is not used as frequently as is transliteration; it occurs in discussions of grammar, and appears in scholars' own notes. Transcription attempts to reproduce Sumerian forms in their approximately correct phonological and morphological shape, disregarding the omissions, conventions, and idiosyncrasies of the written language. For example, signs appearing as kalam-ma in transliteration, will appear as kalama in transcription, since that is probably how the word was actually pronounced. There is no "official" or "standard" system of transcription of Sumerian. It tends to be somewhat personal and idiosyncratic, used by each Sumerologist to enable himself to understand the language behind the written form. This situation contrasts with that of Akkadian, for example. In Akkadian there is a standard way of transliterating texts, and also a reasonably standard way of transcribing them. This can be done for Akkadian, because scholars are generally confident of their understanding of the rules of Akkadian phonology and morphology; in general, transcriptions of Akkadian done by different scholars will be quite similar. In the case of Sumerian, there is much less confidence about the language. Because the script does not always express all grammatical elements, the morphology is not always sure. Moreover, there are several different analyses of the phonetic structure of Sumerian. The system of transcription used by most Sumerologists is not always transcription in the precise sense of the term. For example, morpheme boundaries are often indicated. Also, full forms of morphemes are often indicated, even when it is assumed that some vocalic or consonantal segment probably dropped. Thus, it is actually a kind of mor­ phological transcription. The system of transcription used in this book is based on the system of Jacobsen, and is similar to what many Sumerologists use. It is a morphological transcription, in that it separates morphemes from each other. In this system, morphemes are separated by periods. Features which are assumed to have been present in the spoken language, but which do not show up in the written language, are enclosed in parentheses. The different indices which appear in transliteration are ignored. Thus, will be transcribed as e, and Urim 5 as Urim. Exceptions to this latter rule are sometimes made, particularly for gram­ matical morphemes which tend to be written in only one way. Thus, the "terminative" case-ending is normally transcribed by .�e, because it is always written with the �e-sign, and never with the �e-sign or the M-sign. Similarly, the "enclitic copula" is normally transcribed as .am, since it is regularly written by the am-sign, and not by the am-sign or the am-sign. (Details of these conventions will be discussed below.) The difference between transliteration and transcription should be kept in mind. Transliteration is essentially sign-by-sign, with the goal of representing the cuneiform signs which were used in the original. Transcription is essentially word-by-word, with the goal of approximating the correct phonological and morphological shape of a word. (In practice, however, the terms transliteration and transcription are occasionally used promiscuously.) Transcription is important, because transliteration alone masks too many morphological and phonological issues. Only a consistent transcription can reveal a thorough understanding of the language of the texts. Some of the simplest inscriptions, for

transcription can reveal a thorough understanding of the language of the texts. Some of the simplest
transcription can reveal a thorough understanding of the language of the texts. Some of the simplest

18

Manual ofSumerian

example, could be translated without knowing much Sumerian, simply from a knowledge of Akkadian and of simple vocabulary; a transcription reflects the structure of the language hidden beneath the written form. At certain times in this book, the purely phonemic structure of Sumerian will be stressed, ignoring any morphological considerations. In thatcase, normal linguistic practice will be followed, and the item will be put between slashes, e.g., Ikalama/. Thus, our understanding of Sumerian may be reflected in three different ways: a transliteration, reflecting the written shape; a phonemic transcription, reflecting the pronunciation; and a morphological transcription, reflecting our understanding of the pronunciation and morphology.

PHONOLO GY

Problems

It is not easy to reconstruct the phonological system of Sumerian, or the precise pronunciation of any of its sounds. There are two main reasons for this problem. Since Sumerian is a language-isolate, there is no comparative evidence to provide help. Moreover, most of the evidence for Sumerian phonology has been filtered through the Akkadian phonological system; Sumerian phonology is seen through Akkadian eyes. For instance, it is quite likely that the word for "son" in Sumerian was pronounced Idomu/, with an initial lol-quality vowel. But Akkadian does not have an lol-quality vowel, and hence no 101-sign, and so this word is spelled out in syllabic Akkadian as: du-mu. If there were only Akkadian evidence, it might never even be known that Sumerian had an 101- quality vowel. Thus, the picture of Sumerian of the Ur III period (21 12-2004 BC) is actually based on Akkadian of the Old Babylonian period (1 894- 1595 BC), and later. (Similarly, much knowledge of Sumerian grammar derives from the interpretations given to it by Akkadian-speaking scribes and scholars; this topic is discussed in Appendix 2.) Likewise, very little is known about the historical development of Sumerian phonology. Sumerian was spoken over a period of several centuries (and was used as a written language for even more centuries). The phonological system of Sumerian at the time of, say, Tell Abu Salabikh and that of the time of Ur III may have been significantly different. To some degree, more is known about the value and pronunciation of Sumerian grammatical morphemes, than about Sumerian lexical morphemes. This is because grammatical morphemes are mostly written syllabically, while lexical morphemes are usually written logographically. Without the evidence of lexical lists (Appendix 2), it is quite difficult to fix the value of a logogram. For the same reason, it is occasionally possible to see phonetic change through the course of Sumerian in grammatical morphemes, but it is more difficult to see such changes in lexical morphemes. The upshot of this is that Sumerian probably possessed sounds which Akkadian did not, and which can only be determined using a variety of indirect evidence. Because of the difficulty of dealing with this indirect evidence, there have been several different

Ph onology

19

reconstructions of the Sumerian phonological system. These reconstructions differ both in the number of phonemes present in Sumerian, and in the value attributed to certain phonemes. In practice, however, most Sumerologists do not try to exactly reproduce the sounds of Sumerian. Rather, they use the standard values known from Akkadian. Thus, virtually all transliterations of Sumerian will use the value dumu for "son", even though this is one of the clearest cases where an 101-quality value can be postulated for Sumerian. Similarly,

it is sure that Sumerian had a velar I lJ I , which did not exist in Akkadian. The sign ��i ,

lul -quality vowel; this is the

for example, represents I lJ ul , the velar nasal followed by an

morpheme for the first person singular possessive-suffix on nouns. But the normal value

of this sign in Akkadian is Imu/.

Therefore, many Sumerologists transliterate this sign as

mu, e.g., lugal-mu, "my king". Other scholars, however, transliterate this sign as g!! I O> e.g.,

transliterate this sign as g!! I O> e.g., luggl-g !! I C! Still others, who wish

luggl-g !! I C! Still others, who wish to be more precise, in fact transliterate this sign as lJ !!lO'

etc.; for example, luggl-g !!lC! This

or as some typographical equivalent,

means that transliterations of Sumerian will differ somewhat from scholar to scholar. The transliteration used here will reflect the conventional method of transliteration used by most Sumerologists, even if this reconstruction is somewhat shaky and incomplete.

such as

1O ' g !!lO'

such as � 1 O ' g !! l O ' Vowels Sumerian had at least

Vowels

Sumerian had at least the following vowels:

i u

e

a

The precise phonetic value of these vowels, particularly the I el, is unsure. Many scholars also believe that Sumerian had an lol-quality vowel, but since no 101 existed in Akkadian (at least on the phonemic level), there is only indirect evidence to reconstruct it. It is very difficult to determine whether any particular Sumerian word had an 101-quality vowel or an lul -quality vowel; its existence has been established for only a few cases. Under the assumption of the existence of this 101-quality vowel, the vocalic system of Sumerian is more symmetrical:

i

e

a

u

0

Other Sumerologists have posited other vowels, such as both an open lel and a closed le/. Others have posited the existence of nasalized vowels, but the exact number and

quality of these varies from one scholar to another: /i/; le/; /i I and la/; /i I, lal and lel,

various reconstructions of the phonemic

system of Sumerian, in comparison with what is known about language in general. He feels that if Sumerian possessed only four vowels, then the vowel normally represented as

etc. Claude Boisson ( 1988) has investigated

20

ManualofSumerian

lel was more likely IEI than le/. He also feels that none of the sy stems of nasals which have been posited for Sumerian is likely. It is not sure if there was a phonemic distinction between short and long vowels; this cannot be told from the script. It has been postulated that there were no originally long vowels in Sumerian, but that they did arise through vocalic contrac tion, in particular the contraction of final root-vowels with initial vowels of suffixes. As discussed above, in practical terms most transliterations of Sumerian usually only refl ect the vowels known from Akkadian; that is, the four vowels li sted above.

Consonants

Most analyses of Sumerian would include the following consonant s:

b

p

m

d

t

n

g

k

IJ

z

s

b

1

r

d t n g k IJ z s b 1 r (For ease in printing, the

(For ease in printing, the consonant indicated above as b is often simply transliterated as h, without the "dish". Since Sumerian does not have a "simple" IhI, there is no ambiguity in this usage.)

Virtually all Sumerologists accept the existence of the velar nasal IIJI (although some scholars prefer to speak of a palatal nasal, and others have seen more complex phonemes,

such as IIJm/). When Sumerian words containing this phoneme are loaned into Akkadian,

it is usually (although not always) re flected as !!g.

For example, , "kind of priest"

(Lesson 21) appears in Akkadian as �ang'y. Transliteration s of this phoneme vary. In older works, and in many contemporary works, it may simply appear as g. Some recent works use g, or some typographical equivalent (g, etc.). It will be transliterated here as g, in cases where it is assumed by most Sumerologists to be present. With many words, however, it is not known whether a

phoneme is IIJ /, Igl, or even 1nl or Iml, and so some variation in the transliteration of certain words appears. For example, the verb "to go" is understood by some Sumerologists to be Iginl, but by others to be Iginl (or Igen/). Many Sumerologists believe that Sumerian had a phoneme usually symbolized by Idr/; its exact phonetic significance is unsure. Its existence has been proven in only a few cases. Because of the difficulties of proving its existence in specific words, it is usually not indicated in transcription; instead, in the standard sign-lists and in most transcriptions it is reflected as g. Several other consonants have been posited for Sumerian: Ihl, Iwl, Iy/; two (or more) types of /11; two (or more) types of Ir/; a labiovelar Ik w /; a pre-nasalized labial stop I m b/; etc. Since none of these sounds exists in Akkadian, the evidence for their existence in Sumerian is indirect at best, and individual Sumerologists have their own preferences.

Phonology

21

Transliterations of Sumerian do not normally try to reproduce these disputed phonemes. As a typical example of a reconstruction of Sumerian phonology, it may be instructive to present that postulated by Lieberman:

e

i

b

p

m

a

0

d

t

n

z

 

u

g

k g

z

s

b

1

r

f

In the tables above, certain consonants are indicated as differing only in voice: Ib/ ­ Ip/; Idl - It/; etc. It is not in fact sure what differentiated such pairs; Lieberman explicitly says that the distinction he marks as Ibl - Ipl was not one of voice. Some Sumerologists have speculated that the difference was one of aspiration; this is not an uncommon view today. Boisson, for example, says: "A correlation of aspiration seems to be the only hypothesis with a high probability of success" (1 988:25). Other Sumerologists have speculated that the difference was one of glottalization. There does not appear to have been a phonemic distinction between short and long consonants; it is not in fact sure if long consonants occ urred at all. One of the thorniest questions in Sumerian involves the status of word-final and syllable-final consonants. According to most Sumerologists, certain consonants, when in word-final position, were not pronounced. For example, the root for "dais" is Ibarag/, with a word-final Ig/. However, unless this Igl was fo llowed by a vowel, it was not pronounced: this word would have been pronounced as Ibara/. The word-final consonant in a root is usually referred to by the German term "Auslaut". Thus, it is said that the word for "dais" (pronounced Ibarag/) had a "g­ Auslaut", or the word for "to live" (pronounced Itil/) had a "l-Auslaut". The consonants which were regularly not pronounced in word-final position are called "amissable" consonants. Those which were pronounced in word-final position are called "non-amissable". (These terms are apparently peculiar to Sumerologists; they are not used by general linguists.) Sumerologists differ among themselves about which consonants were not pronounced. Some believe this affected all consonants, although perhaps not "to the same degree". Others believe that it affected a smaller number of consonants (although no two lists of such consonants seem to agree exactly). Also, it is not known if the amissable consonants were not pronounced in word-final position only; most Sumerologists believe that they were not pronounced in any syllable-final position. Arno Poebel, for example (the real father of Sumerian grammar) , states that "As a rule, an amissable consonant is dropped whenever it stands at the end of a word or syllable" ( 1935: 147). Similarly, Samuel Noah

Kramer says: "All final consonants in Sumerian are

consonant' as here used includes the consonant at the end of a syllable as well as the one at the end of a word" (1936: 19).

The term 'final

22

ManualofSumerian

The existence of amissable consonants is certainly not impossible. There is a close parallel in French: In spoken French, word-final consonants are not pronounced (under certai n conditio ns), although they still appear in the written form. A fe w Sumerologi sts, however, are not convinced of the existence of amis sable consonants. They interpret the problem as being orthographic in nature. The reason this question is still unresolved is because of ambiguities in the writing system. At various points in this book, differe nt pieces of evidence will be cited, some of which seem to indicate that word-final consonants were pronounced, and some of which seem to indicate that word-final consonants were not pronounced. The existence of amissable consonants means that the cuneiform signs which represent words with these amissable Auslauts have two values: a "long" value, which includes the amissable Auslaut (e.g., kalag, Urim S ' !ill, and a "short" value, which does not (kala, Uri S ' ill. With some signs, the long value and the short value have different indices, e.g., tU [with diacritic] and !i [without diacritic]. This annoying situation is partially due to the fact that indices were originally assigned on the basis of frequency in Akkadi an, not Su meri an. Some scholars transliterate Sumerian using basically only the long values; others transliterate Sumerian using basically only the short values. Other scholars use both, the choice being determined by syllabic conditions: the short form if word-final (or syllable­ final), the long form if not. Others are less consistent, using a mixture of long and short values. This latter practice is particularly true of less recent Sumerological literature, where one finds a mixture of transliteration principles, based primarily on customary readings of the cuneiform signs. Such customary readings have arisen from the piece-meal growth in understanding of Akkadian and Sumerian. For example, in 1940 Kramer published an edition of the "Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur". This is a Sumerian poem, some 436 lines long, bemoaning the destruction of Ur at the end of the Ur III period; it was

written probably about a century after its destruction.

"The time is not yet ripe for a thorough and scientific overhauling of the Sumeri an system of transliteration". Therefore , he "deems it best to follow the more or less establi shed usage". In this system, In the case of signs representing roots that end in a consonant and may have either the long or the short value (e.g., the signs for ill!(Q), "to call", du(g), "good", etc., which may be read either pad, dug, etc. or !ill, dul O ' etc.) the transliteration uses the longer value in spite of the fact that the shorter is scientifically the more correct. Only in cases such as !!(Q), "day", and �a(g), "heart", where the shorter value has become more or less standard, is that value used in our transliteration, although the inconsistency in transliterating the signs for ill! (g) and du(g) as pad and dug while giving those fo r !!(g) and �a(g) as 14 and M is only too patent (1940:6). Kramer is obviously irked by th is inconsistency, but fe els that there is nothing he can do about it. Although he wrote this passage almost fo urty -five years ago, some editors of Su meri an texts still fo llow such cus tomary usage. A compromise made by some Sumerologists is to put the Auslaut within paren theses, e.g. , kala(g) . However, if the short and long forms have differe nt indices, this can create confusion; some scholars transl iterate

have differe nt indices, this can create confusion; some scholars transl iterate In his Introduction, Kramer
have differe nt indices, this can create confusion; some scholars transl iterate In his Introduction, Kramer

In his Introduction, Kramer says that

have differe nt indices, this can create confusion; some scholars transl iterate In his Introduction, Kramer
have differe nt indices, this can create confusion; some scholars transl iterate In his Introduction, Kramer

Ph onology

23

Ph onology 2 3 as ti(1), others as ti(1). In this book, all word-final consonants have

as ti(1), others as ti(1).

In this book, all word-final consonants have been consistently

transliterated (and transcribed) .

Other features

There were undoubtedly other fe atures in the spoken language, which the writing sy stem only hints at. There is only marginal evidence, for example, to determine word­ stress, and it will not be dealt with here. Similarly, there is only the most indirect evidence for sentence-intonation. Because of what is claimed to be a large number of homonyms in Sumerian, it has several times been argued that Sumerian possessed phonemic tones. Diakonoff, for example, says: "Sumerian was certainly a tonal language, or else the many homonyms would have made spoken Sumerian quite unintelligible" ( 1983:86). However, the evidence is indirect and slight. In fact. many words which earlier Sumerologists believed to be homonyms have been shown to contain different Auslauts, and so are not actually homonyms.

PART lWO:

LESSONS IN SUMERIAN GRAMMAR

Lesson 1

This first text is a royal inscription of Ur-Nam mu, the fo under of the Ur III Dynasty (ruled 2112-2095 BC).

Sign-list and vocabulary

In this and subsequent sign-lists, the signs are loosely organized according to function. Determi natives are first, fo llowed by proper names, nouns, verbs, and syllabic signs.

� Determinative preceding divine names (DNs). Transliterated by a superscrip t "d":

W Determinative following geographical names (ONs). Transliterated by a superscript ki

"ki":

}>-�� � Nanna � Nammu JId � r� 4 It=tJ Urims (Uris )
}>-�� �
Nanna
� Nammu
JId � r�
4 It=tJ
Urims (Uris )

Nanna (DN, masc)

Nammu (DN, fern)

Ur_ d Nammu

Ur-Nammu (personal name [PN], masc)

Ur (ON)

r�

nin

lady, mistress; "lord"

an

heaven

}>-/Tl>-J ur fg{rit> lugal � M p dti 4 na Tt £! P ni
}>-/Tl>-J
ur
fg{rit>
lugal
M
p
dti
4
na
Tt
£!
P
ni

man, warrior

king

house

to build

25

26

Lesson 1

}-J!-T

ma

Jm ke4 mu �.( « .(
Jm
ke4
mu
�.(
«
.(

Especially for those who are primarily interested in West-Semitic, it is not always easy to master cuneiform signs. In certain ways, however, it is easier to learn the signs of this period than the signs of later periods. In later periods, the repertoire of possible sign shapes becomes quite reduced, so that (superficially) the signs of the Neo-Assyrian period, for example, all look very similar. In the earlier periods, however, the signs are much more distinctive, making them easier to learn. However, one problem in studying the signs of the early periods is the occasional wide variation in external shape of the signs. For example, the sign for �, "house", looks rather differe nt in Text 2 than it does in Text 1. This variation is due to several factors :

nature of the writing surface, different scribal tradition s at different scribal centers, individual idiosyncrasies of handwriting, etc. The sign-lists and vocabularies attempt to produce the basic or essential shape of each sign; the signs in the autographs are reproduced exactly as published.

Notes

The Notes discuss some of the more important vocabulary items. Often, reference is made to Akkadian words which were borrowed from these Sumerian words. This practice is open to methodological criticism, since Akkadian is not Sumerian, and there is no reason to assume that Sumerian words always kept exactly the same meaning when placed into an Akkadian context. But since normally much more is known about the Akkadian term than about the Sumerian term, it is still useful to examine the Akkadian equivalents.

Nanna The city-god of Ur. The large temple-complex at Ur discussed below was sacred to him in particular. He was associated with the moon ; nanna in fact means "moon".

"luminary, light (as

poetic term, an epithet of the moon god and !Star)". This Akkadian word may be some kind of blend or contamination between the Sumerian word nanna and the Akkadian root nawanI. Because of this Akkadian word, some earlier Sumerologists believed that the Sumerian word had an Ir/-Auslaut, and so the name sometimes appears as Nannar. However, there seems to be no inner-Sumerian evidence which would indicate such an Auslaut. The moon-god was also referred to as Zuen; this problem will be further discussed in

Lesson 13. The Mesopotamian scribes interpreted the cuneiform sign expressing his name as

In Akkadian, the word nannaru occurs, glossed by the CAD as:

Akkadian, the word nannaru occurs, glossed by the CAD as: consisting of two signs: the S
Akkadian, the word nannaru occurs, glossed by the CAD as: consisting of two signs: the S

consisting of two signs: the SeS-sign ( � or }> �) fo llowed bJ: the ki-sign

Therefore, in older works the name is sometimes transliterated as : SeS-ki. More likely,

« �).
« �).

Lesson 1

2 7

however, the second element was originally the na-sign, complement of some kind.

functioning

as

a phonetic

Nammu Not much is know about this goddess. However, she is described as "the mo­ ther who gave birth to heaven and earth", and as "the primeval mother, who gave birth to all the gods". It is thus possible that at one time she played a more important role in Sumerian cosmogony. The cuneiform sign which represents this name can also be read engur, which lexical texts equate with the Akkadian apsu, the "w atery deep" (see Les son 14). The cuneiform sign may be an abstract representation of this deep. In some older Sumerological works, the two readings of this sign (Nammu and engyr) were not clearly differe ntiated. Therefore, the name of the founder of the Ur III Dy nasty sometimes appears as Ur-Engur, or Ur-Gur.

Ur III Dy nasty sometimes appears as Ur-Engur, or Ur-Gur. UrimS In English, "Ur". One of
Ur III Dy nasty sometimes appears as Ur-Engur, or Ur-Gur. UrimS In English, "Ur". One of

UrimS In English, "Ur". One of the more famous cities in sou thern Mesopotamia; the city after which the Ur III period is named. The name of the modern site is al-Muqayyar. The etymology of the name Urims is unknown. It is also not known how these two particular cuneiform signs (presumably, the �e�-sign fo llowed by the ab-sign) came to represent the name. Urims is the long value of the sign. The short value is variously transliterated as Uri , Uri2, Uri3 , or Uris . The oscillation in diacritics illustrates the problem of diacritical marks on bisyllabic signs. The sign-lists in this book give the long value first, followed by the short value. Because both are encountered in Sumerological literature, it is necessary to know both values, even though this seems like a totally unnecessary burden upon the student. Sometimes, the name is written �e�-unug and not �e�-ab, in which case it should pro­ perly be transliterated as Urim2. The English equivalent, "Ur", derives from the Old Testament f'ur kasdlmf, "Ur of the Chaldeans". Exactly how the Hebrew f'urf deriv es from the Su merian fUrimf is unsure.

f'urf deriv es from the Su merian fUrimf is unsure. nin In general , the Su
f'urf deriv es from the Su merian fUrimf is unsure. nin In general , the Su
f'urf deriv es from the Su merian fUrimf is unsure. nin In general , the Su
f'urf deriv es from the Su merian fUrimf is unsure. nin In general , the Su

nin In general , the Su merian word for "lord" is en; the fe minine equivalent, "lady", is nin. (It is not impossible that the two words are etymologically related.) However, in older Sumerian nin can also be used to refer to masculine entities. Perhaps at one time the term was genderless. In the Ur III period, this usage can be considered an archaism.

the Ur III period, this usage can be considered an archaism. ur The usual interpretation of

ur The usual interpretation of this word is something like "man; warrior, hero". In bilingual lexical texts, ur is glossed as amelu, "man", and as kalbu, "dog". ur with the meaning "dog" is not uncommon in Sumerian texts. However, ur meaning "man" seems to occur only in personal names; it does not have this meaning in actual texts (although the compound ur-sag, "hero", presumably "man-head", is common). One might guess that the ur-sign was originally a picture of a dog or some kind of beast, but even the earliest attestations of the ur-sign do not look very animal-like.

l ugal

of the ur-sign do not look very animal-like. l ugal Etymologically, a compound of lu "man"

Etymologically, a compound of lu "man" and gal "great".

This word is further

28

Lesson 1

discussed in Lesson 7.

According to 1.1. Gelb, "The Sumerian word has several meanings: a) a dwelling

house, even a room b) palace, temp le c) family, clan d) household. The same meanings occur also for the Akkadian bI tum" (1 979b:2). In the sense of "temple", it can refer either

to one particular building, or to an entire temple complex consisting of several buildings. In very recent secondary literature, it is occasionally transliterate d as: 'a.

literature, it is occasionally transliterate d as: 'a. dd Although du occasionally means "to build" de

dd Although du occasionally means "to build" de novo, it more often means "to rebuild".

It

is especially frequent when describing the rebuilding of temples which had fallen into

di

srep air. Usually, it is difficult to tell in any particular text whether du means "to build" or

"to re build"; this can only be resolved by historical or archaeological data. Gelb adds that "It is clear that when a ruler writes of having built a temple for a certain divinity, he means not only that he erected a temple, but also that he provided it with all the necessary means of social and economic support" (1979b:3).

Lesson 1

29

5

Text 1

~ �� trr ~ � m w P> � *" re: �•.� r=Cl � �rmEf
~
��
trr
~
m
w
P>
*"
re:
�•.�
r=Cl
� �rmEf
W
P
---
--
�t>

30

Lesson 1

1:

Notes:

autographs

When obtainable, photographs of the texts used in the Lessons have been included. This has not always been possible or desirable, and so most of the texts are presented as "autographs". In Assyriological parlance, autograph refers to the hand-copy done by a modern Assyriologist, to imitate the cuneiform. The quality of autographs can range from very accurate to very poor. To quote Lieberman, It is, of course, patent that the "autographs" of all copyists are not equally reliable. Their objectives, ranging from an exact reproduction including every scratch on the tablet to a highly abstract conventional representation of the original (some Assyriologists are even known to have produced "copies" from their transliterated notes) as well as their individual skills and abilities make the value of their copies diverge (1977:67). It is only through long experience that one gets a feel for how accurate certain Assyriologists are (or aren't) in their autographs.

-Writingpractices

Both Sumerian and Akadian are written from left to right across the writing surface.

(The earliest Sumerian texts were inscribed in vertical columns, read from right to left.) Most royal inscriptions are subdivided into "lines", marked by an actual line drawn or impre ssed on the writing surface. The use of such lines in Sumerian (and Akkadian) is to some extent dependent on the genre of text; royal inscriptions, for example, use them regularly. Many literary texts use them, but just as many do not. There is some oscillation in the use of the word line. This particular text was divided by its scribe into seven units, but the fifth of these units actually contains two rows of text. In order to be precise, some Sumerologists use the term "case" or "register" to describe the units physically demarcated by the scribe, and the term "line" to describe the actual rows of signs. Thus, in this text case 5 has two lines. Although this is a very handy distinction, most scholars, will, in fact, simply use the term line to mean both line or case, especially in

unambiguous contexts; this is the krocedure followed here . In line 5, the determinative 1 begins the second line within the case. There are six

cuneiform signs in this particular expression. It would have been physically impossible to put all these six signs on one line, so the scribe put them on two lines. If he had put the ki­ sign with the Urim s -sign, there would have been too much empty space on the second line

of the case. By indenting the second line of the case, the signs representing the ON are grouped in close proximity to each other.

Transliteration

2:

3:

4:

d Nanna

nin-an-na nin-�-ni Ur_ d Nammu
nin-an-na
nin-�-ni
Ur_ d Nammu

Transcription

Translation

Nanna

For Nanna,

nin.an.a(k)

the "lord"

of heaven,

nin.ani.(r)

his "lord" -

Umammu

Ur-Nammu,

Lesson 1

31

5:

lugal-Urim S ki �-fl-ni mu-na-du
lugal-Urim S ki
�-fl-ni
mu-na-du

-ma-ke4

lugal.Urim.ak.e

the king of Ur -

6:

e.ani.0

his temple ­

7:

mu.na.(n.)du.0

he built.

Commentary

1.

Nanna is the name of a god; Nammu is the name of a goddess. Sumerian has no gender

system; there are no special markers for either in here ntly masculine or inherently fe minine

nouns. In most cases, one word may apply to either gender. For example, dim may mean

either "god" or "goddess".

from different root s. In a fe w other cases, Sumerian adds the word for "female" (munus) after a noun. For example, dumu can either mean "son" (masculine) or "child" (masculine or fe minine); dumu-munus is specifically "female child", hence "daughter".

In other cases, the masculine and femi nine seem to be formed

other cases, the masculine and femi nine seem to be formed 2. nin is used here
other cases, the masculine and femi nine seem to be formed 2. nin is used here

2.

nin is used here to refer to the male god Nanna. For convenience sake, nin in such

contexts may be translated as "lord". Sumerian has no definite or indefinite article. For example, � can mean "a house" or "the house". nin.an. a(k) forms a "genitive phrase". The form ation of the genitive in Sumeri an is quite different from the formation s in Semitic or in Indo-Europ ean. In Sumerian, in a genitive phrase consisting of two nouns, the "possessor" follow s the "possessed". The two nouns themselves are not formally marked, but the second noun is followed by the "genitive marker" .ak. For example, "the house of the king" is: e.1ugal.ak; "lady of heaven" is: nin.an.ak. (Genitive phrases of more than two nouns will be discussed later.) The form of the genitive marker is lakl fo ll owing a consonant (in transcription, .ak) and Ikl following a vowel (in transcription, .k). Ikl is one of the amissable consonants discussed under Phonology. As such, when in word-final position, it does not show up in the writing system. As stated above, most Sumerologists believe that the reason such consonants do not appear in writing, is because they were not pronounced. A minority of scholars, however, believe that they were pronounced, and their absence is purely an orthographic problem. In the morphological transcription used here, the Ikl is transcribed within parentheses: .a(k). This transcription shows that the Ikl does not appear in the script. This genitive phrase is written nin-an-na, which is interpreted as: nin.an.a(k). One might have expected a writing of the type *nin-an-fl. However, Sumerian generally avoids writing word-final (and to some degree, syllable-final) single vowels. Instead, the writing system prefers to graphically re duplic ate the consonant immediately preceding the word­ final vowel. Thus, in this case, Sumerian writes the na-sign - graphically reduplicating the preceding 1nl.

The principle of graphically reduplicating a preceding consonant is common throughout all periods of Sumerian. It is purely a property of the orthography; it does not mean that Sumerian pronounced a double consonant here. To summarize, nin-an-na represents the genitive phrase: nin.an.a(k). A genitive

represents the genitive phrase: nin.an.a(k). A genitive phrase of two nouns is formed by adding the

phrase of two nouns is formed by adding the genitive marker after the second noun.

The

32

Lesson 1

genitive marker is lalc! after a consonant, Ikl after a vowel. Ikl is one of the amissable consonants, and hence does not appear in writing in word-final position. The lal of the genitive marker is usually contained within a sign which reduplicates the consonant immediatelypreceding the/a/.

3. nin-i!-ni = nin.ani.(r). Sumerian has a set of suffixes to indicate pronominal possession.

is the

possessive-suffix marking third person singular. The fonns of the first and second per­ sons, and of all the plurals, are discussed later. Since Sumerian has no gender system, .ani can mean either "his" or "her". However, Sumerian does have remnants of what is usually referred to as a distinction in "animacy". Human beings are "animate"; things and animals are "inanimate". In the case of the possessive- suffix, .ani is only used to refer to animate antecedents; an entirely different fonn (.bi) is used to refer to inanimate antecedents (corresponding to English "its").

After a consonant, the suffix appears as: .ani. After a vowel, it appears both as: .ani, and as: .ni. For example, "his house" can appear as both �-i!-ni and �-ni; in the Ur III royal inscriptions, the fuller spelling is much more common. .ra is the case-marker for the dative case. Its fonn is Iral following a consonant and Irl following a vowel. Case-endings in Sumerian work differently than they do in the Semitic or the Indo­ European languages. In Sumerian, case-endings occur at the end of an entire nominal phrase. A nominal phrase can vary in size. Minimally, it can consist of a single noun. It can also consist of a noun with a possessive-suffix, or with an adjective, or with an embedded genitive phrase, or even with a long series of appositives. In this particular case, the nominal phrase spans lines 1 to 3. It consists of: a divine name (Nanna); an appositive, consisting of a genitive phrase (nin.an.a(k» ; a second appositive, consisting of a noun with

a possessive-suffix (nin.ani). The dative case-marker .r comes at the end of this entire

phrase. This can be diagrammed as: [Nanna nin.an.a(k) nin.ani].r. This is, in general, the

way all case-markers work in Sumerian (and, even more generally, in agglutinative languages). The dative case is primarily used in Sumerian to express an indirect object; for example, "He gave it to the king". It is also frequently used (as it is here) to express a

benefactive, that is, the person on whose behalf an action was perfonned. In such cases, it can be translated by "for". The case-marker Irl is not written here. Its presence in spoken Sumerian is shown by the fact that it is actually written in other (mostly later) inscriptions. In these other

in

scrip tions, there are fonns such as: di gir-ra-ni-ir, "for his god" = digir.ani.r (fol lowing the

They are referred to as "possessive-suffixes" or "pronominal

suffixes".

.ani

or "pronominal suffixes". .ani nonnal convention that CV-VC stands for ICVC/, that is,
or "pronominal suffixes". .ani nonnal convention that CV-VC stands for ICVC/, that is,

nonnal convention that CV-VC stands for ICVC/, that is, ni-ir = Inir/). In the body of texts in this book, .r first appears in Text 14, an inscription of Amar-Sin, the grandson of Ur-Nammu. It is not known why the Irl is not written; this is discussed in Lesson 14. The situation is differe nt from that of the genitive marker. The Ikl of the genitive marker is an amissable consonant, and so is regularly not written. But Irl is apparently a non-amissable consonant, and does occasionally appear in the writing.

Lesson 1

33

4. ur fo llowed by the name of a deity is a very common way to form personal names in Sumerian, in all periods of the language. In Text 1, Ur_ d Nammu occurs; in Text 19a, Ur­ d Lamar. Such names are genitive phrases, meaning "man of DN" or "warrior of DN". The name then is to be understood as: Ur.Nammu.(k), with the genitive marker taking the form Ikl after a preced ing vowel. However, there is some dis agreem ent about the presence of the genitive marker in proper names. Some Sumerologists believe that in proper names the genitive marker was deleted. Thus, this particular name may have been pronounced as lumammu/, and not as lumammuk/. Other Sumerologists however, do not believe this to be so. The first practice has been followed in this book, and thus this name has been transcribed as Umammu, not as Ur.nammu.(k). In translation, the most common Assyriological practice is to give the name as Ur-Nammu.

Assyriological practice is to give the name as Ur-Nammu. 5 . l.Y.gal-Urims ki - m a

5. l.Y.gal-Urims

ki
ki

-ma-ke4 = lugal.Urim.ak.e, "king of Ur". Because the genitive marker

fol lows a consonant (here, Im/), its fu ll form (/ ak/, with initial la/) is us ed. When the genitive marker is directly fo llowed by a vowel, the Ikl is pronounced, and show s up in the writing (recall that in such phrases as nin.an.a(k), the Ikl is word-final, and hence does not show up in the writing). The .e is the marker of the ergative case, as discussed under Ergativity. As do all case-markers, it comes at the end of the entire nominal phrase. The nominal phrase here consists of a personal name, Ur-Nammu (a genitive phrase in origin), and an appositive consisting of a genitive phrase, lugal.Urim.ak. This may be diagrammed as: [Umammu lugal.Urim.ak].e. The ergative case-marker .e marks what we would call the active subject of a transitive verb, or, in more appropriate terminology, the agent. (Because of inconsistencies in terminology, however, this .e is sometimes referred to as "agent", "agentive marker" or "ending", "subject", "transitive subject", "ergative marker", etc.) The cuneiform signs do not reflect well the morphology of Su merian here. In transliteration, the signs are: lugal-Urims ki -ma-ke 4 ' In morphological transcription, this is:

-ma-ke 4 ' In morphological transcription, this is: l u g a l . U r

lugal.Urim.ak.e. The rna-sign reduplicates the final Iml of Urims, and includes the lal of the genitive marker. The ke4 -sign includes the Ikl of the genitive marker, and the Iel of the ergative case-marker. Thus, both the rna-sign and the ke4 -sign represent segments of two diffe rent morpheme s. This use of the ke4 -sign is very frequent; it is the sign normally used for the combination of segments of the genitive marker and the ergative case-marker. Not much is known about the syllabic structure of spoken Sumerian, but it may have been closer to the written form than to the morphological transcription. This line may have been syllabified something like: Ilu- ga-Iu-ri-ma-ke/. If so, the written form is actually

closer to the presumed syllabic structure of Sumerian than it is to the morphemic structure of Sumerian. The use of hyphens in transliteration varies to some degree from scholar to scholar. ki

All Sumerologists would use hyphens in the wo.rd Urims

Some would put a

hyphen between lugal and Urims:

being used to link all the signs which form the entire nominal phrase. Others use hyphens only between signs belonging to one word. It is not always easy, however, to define "word" in Sumerian.

hyphens are

-ma-ke4' lugill-Urimll-ma-ke4 '
-ma-ke4'
lugill-Urimll-ma-ke4 '

In this latter case,

34

Lesson 1

6. �-�-ni = e.ani.0, "his temple". As in line 3, .ani is the third person animate posses sive­

suffix. The antecedent is ambiguous; it could refer to Ur-Nammu, or it could refer to Nanna. From other texts it is clear that .ani refers back to Nanna. The .0 is the case-marker for the absolute case. This case indicates what we would call the direct object of a transitive verb, or, more appropriately, the patient. There is, however, not a great deal of consistency in nomenclature, and so such terms as

"accusative", "direct object marker", etc., are commonly used. The nominal phrase here is quite short, consisting of the noun �, and the possessive­ suffix .ani: [e.ani] .0.

7. mu-na-du = mu.na.(n.)du.0, "he built". This line contains the verbal phrase. The verb

in Sumerian works rather differently than the verb in the Semitic or Indo-European languages. A finite verb form in Sumerian consists of a series of verbal prefixes, followed by a verbal root, then followed by a smaller series of verbal suffixes. Certain of these affixes are obligatory, while others are optional. Because of the general uncertainty of Sumerian grammar, the precise number of prefixes occurring before the verbal root is unsure. The view presented here might be called "minimalist". Alternative interpretations will be discussed later. The entire sequence of verbal prefixes occurring before the verbal root is usually referred to as the "verbal chain". The first prefix to appear in this chain is an optional "modal-prefix" (also referred to as a "mood-marker"). Modal-prefixes are used for such sentence types as cohortative, jussive, subjunctive, etc. A "normal" declarative sentence is in the indicative mood, which is unmarked. The verb in line 7 is indicative, and so there is no modal-prefix. The second position is occupied by the "conjugation-prefix". There are some half­ dozen conjuga tion-prefixes. These prefixes are among the most mysteriou s fe ature s of Sumerian; it is not known exactly what information these prefixes convey. This means that it is not known, for example, what the difference in meaning is between a finite verbal form with the conjugation-prefix mu and one with the conjugation-prefix i. Such variation occurs in the texts, but it is not known what this variation implies. Needless to say, there are several theori es about the fu nction of the conjugation­ prefixes. They may be connected with time: indicating whether events are near or far (temporally, or even emotionally) relative to the speaker. They may have to do with space:

indicating whether events are near or far (spatially, or even emotion ally) relative to the speaker. At times, they seem to correspond to a polite - familiar distinction. It is probable that the conjugation-prefixes convey nuances which are not normally conveyed in English. This means that even if it were understood what the conjugation­ prefixes meant, it would not be possible to tran slate them readily into English, except by an elaborate periphrasis. (Jacobsen, for example, believes that the conjugation-prefix mu is used "To indicate 'closeness' to the speaker if by closeness we understand not only closeness in space and time but also emotional closeness, empathy, involvement" [1965: 4 37].) In practice, Sumerol ogists ignore the conj ugation-prefixes; they are not reflected in translation. Writing in 1972, Maurice Lambert said: "Today, the prefix does not exist for

Lesson 1

35

the translator of Sumerian, it is only an object of study for the grammarian" (1972-3:97).

In subsequent texts,

the various conjugation-prefixes will be pointed out, and the possible kinds of information which they may be conveying will be discussed. Text 1 uses the conjugation-prefix mu. This conjugation-prefix is very common in the

Ur III royal in scrip tions. In fact, almost all past-tense verb s in main

royal inscriptions use the conjugation-prefix mu. The next set of prefixes are the (mostly) obligatory "dimensional-prefixes". There is nothing comparable to these forms in Semitic or Indo-European. They "cross-reference" (or "resume" or "register") the case relationships appearing in the various nominal phrases in the sentence, with the exception of the agent and patient. In the verb in line 7, the dimensional-prefix .na cross-references the dative case marked by .r in line 3. Most earlier studies of Sumerian stated that the dimensional-prefixes were obligatory, and that there was a one-to-one relationship between case relationships and dimensional­ prefixes: every case relationship is resumed by its dimensional-prefix, and conversely every occurrence of a dimensional-prefix implies a corresponding case relationship somewhere in the sentence. While this one-to-one correspondence may have been valid for "pre-historic" Sumerian , in actual historic Sumerian the situation is not so neat. Gene Gragg has made a detailed study of the dimensional-prefixes in the Old Babylonian literary texts; he states that they "function independently of concord to a much greater extent than has been recognized by current theories" (1 973a: 10). The dimensional-prefixes often seem unneces sary or redundant, because they do not convey any new information; rather, they "merely" cross-reference the already-present case relationships. However, all languages have a certain amount of built-in redundancy, to help cope with the possiblities of information being garbled or lost. Many other languages cross-reference case relationships, in various ways. The nominal phrase in the dative is the only nominal phrase (except those indicating the agent and the patient) in the sentence, so only one dimensional-prefix occurs. If other nominal phrases were present, they would also be resumed. Thus, it is possible for there to be one, two, or three dimensional-prefixes in one verbal chain; that is, the dimensional­ prefi xes are cumulative. (The longest attested sequence appears to be four dimensional­ prefixes in one verbal chain.) There is a hierarchical order to these prefixes; the dative, for instance, always comes first. Not all such rules, however, are understood; in addition, there are certain morphophonemic changes which are not clear. These complications will be discussed later. Following the dimensional-prefixes comes a (probably) obligatory prefix, the "personal-affix" (there is no generally-accepted term) . These forms have been much discussed. They apparently cross-reference the agent and the patient, although this is not completely certain.

sentences in the Ur ITI

The problem of the conjugation-prefixes cannot be solved here.

In the case of a verb in the past tense, the personal-affix in this position cross­ references the agent. Thus, in Text 1, the personal-affix .(n) cross-references the agent marked by the ergative case-marker of line 5. The form of the third-person singular animate personal-affix is: .n. As will be seen

36

Lesson 1

later, the personal- affix has different forms for first and second person, and also di ffere nt forms for inanimate agents. This particular prefix always occupies the position closest to the verbal root. However, this prefix frequently does not show up in the writing. The reason for its absence is not as clear as that of, for example, the dative case-marker. The dative case­ marker is not normally written in texts from the early stages of the Ur III dynasty (nor in earlier texts), but it begins to show up frequently in texts from the time of Amar-Sin on. Thus, scholars are reasonably confident that the Irl of the dative case- marker is present, even if not written; its later appearance is the result of a change in orthographic practice. The rules governing the presence and absence of the personal-affix 1nl are, however, not so clear-cut; it is not often written even in later texts. The presence or absence of .n cannot simply be correlated with a dimension of time. In the Gudea texts, for example, forms both with and without .n occur, with no obvious rules governing their distribution. And in later Sumerian, forms also occur both with and without the .n. This means that rules cannot yet be determined for the presence or absence of 1nl in the script, and it is not in fact sure at what level such rules would apply. The rules may be purely orthographic; there seem to be other cases in Sumerian where syllable-final nasals are not expressed in writing. Or, the rules may be phonological; the 1nl may have dropped early, leaving a nasalized vowel, which could not adequately be represented in the script. More probably, there may be a complex set of morphological and syntactical rules governing deletion of 1nl; it has been posited, for example, that 1nl is only used (and so only expressed in writing) to resolve possibly ambiguous cases. Partially for convenience sake, I have as sumed that the personal-affix .n is always present, unless there is a specific reason for its absence. Hence, it is transcribed as: (n.). This presumed consistency must be taken with a grain of salt. After all these obligatory and optional prefixes, comes the verbal root, du in this particular case. The root in Sumerian appears to be invariable. There is nothing like the complicated inflection of Semitic or Indo-European roots for person and number (the only inflection for person is in the personal-affix position, immediately before the verbal root; a limited inflection for number occurs in a set of personal-affixes after the verbal root). There is no canonical shape of the root. Roots of the syllabic shape ev and eve are perhaps the most common, but roots of other syllabic structures are frequent. After the verbal root, there occur a number of optional affixes, not all of which are well-understood. Some of these affixes are used to express modal and other nuances, such aspotentiality, irrealis, etc. For a verb in the past tense, the most important affix which occurs in this position is the personal-affix which cross-references the patient. The personal-affix which cross­ references a third-person singular patient can be represented by zero, .0. Thus, the patient in this sentence (e.ani .0) is resumed by a .0 after the verbal ro ot. This means that the patient is ma r ked by .0, and that it is cross-referenced by .0. This may vaguely seem like cheating ("nothing resumed by nothing"), but there are theoretical justifications for this interpretation. Thus, the agent and the patient are re sumed differently: The agent is resumed in the

for this interpretation. Thus, the agent and the patient are re sumed differently: The agent is

Lesson 1

37

position immediately before the verbal root, and the patient is resumed in the position immediately after the verbal root. The term personal-affix is used to refer to both affixes. To sum up, the verbal phrase in Sumerian normally consists of: an optional modal­ prefix (the indicative is unmarked); an obligatory conjugation-prefix, whose function is unclear; one or more basically obligatory dimensional-prefixes, which cross-reference all case relationships (except that of the agent and patient); an obligatory personal-affix, which in the past tense cross-references the agent; the verbal root; an obligatory personal-affix, which in the past tense cross-references the patient; other optional affixes. This particular verbal form may be summarized as follows:

mu

m u na . (n.) du . 0

na

. (n.)

du .

0

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(1)

conjugation-prefix

(2)

dimensional-prefixcross-referencing the dative

(3)

personal-affix cross-referencing the agent

(4)

verbal root

(5)

personal-affix cross-referencing thepatient.

The verb in line 7 was translated as past tense, without any discussion. Sumerian has two sets of verbal forms. The differe nce in fu nction between the two is somewhat unsu re. Some Sumerologists believe that the difference was one of tense (past - present-future); others believe that it was a difference of aspect (perfect - imperfect) ; and others believe that it was a difference of Aktionsart (punctual - durative, etc.). For convenience sake, they will be referred to here as aspects. Akkadian scribes gave names to these two aspects. One aspect they called bamm ("quick"), and the other they called maru ("fat"). There is some evidence that the Sumerian word for bamm was Y4 ' and the word for marii was niga; the original meaning of these two words is not sure. The terms bam n! and marii are frequently used by modem Assy­ riolog ists when referring to these verbal forms in Su meri an. In the Ur III royal inscriptions, it does seem that basically the bamt.!! is used for actions which occurred in the past, and the marii is used for actions in the present and fu ture. That is, the two seem more tense-like than aspect-like. But this may be due to the relative simplicity of these inscrip tions. The bamn! form is unmarked; it is the citation form (the form given, for example, in the Vocabularies) . As will be seen later, the marii is formed from the bamt!! in several different ways, and the systems for cross-referencing the agent and patient in the bamt!! and in the marii are quite different.

in the bamt!! and in the marii are quite different. Discussion: s t r u c
in the bamt!! and in the marii are quite different. Discussion: s t r u c

Discussion:

structure

Having examined this inscription with a fine-tooth comb, let us now consider the structure of the inscription as a whole. If all appositional noun phrases are grouped with their head nouns, and their fu nctions are labeled, we see:

38

Lesson 1

(2)

(3)

[Nanna, nin.an.a(k), nin.ani] .(r)

benefactive

[Umammu, lugal.Urim.ak].e

agent

[e.ani] .0

patient

mu.na.(n.)du.0

verb

The dative marked in .r is resumed by the dimensional-prefix .na; the ergative marked in .e is resumed by the personal- affix .n; the absolute marked in .0 is re sumed by the personal-affix .0. This is a rather aesthetically satisfying system; as will be seen later, however, things often do not hang together so neatly. Second, let us look at the word order:

BENEFACTIVE - AGENT - PATIENT - VERB

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

This partic ular order is actually somewhat different from standard Su merian syntax. In more standard Sumerian, the word order is:

AGENT - PATIENT - COMPLEMENTS - VERB

or:

(1)

(3)

(4)

AGENT - COMPLEMENTS - PATIENT - VERB

(1)

(2)

(4)

The difference in word order between standard Sumerian prose and that of the royal inscriptions is in the position of the benefactive. In royal inscriptions, the benefactive is almost always fronted; this gives added emphasis to the deity on whose behalf some act is being commemorated. In English, the difference might be reflected as "For Nanna, Ur­ Nammu built his temple", instead of "Ur-Nammu built his temple for Nanna". Hallo ' s investigation of the structure of the Ur III royal inscriptions showed that their style is very formulaic. A typical in scription is composed of the fol lowing elements, almost always in the same order:

(1)

A benefactive phrase, giving the name of the deity, with optional epithets;

(2)

An agentive phrase, giving the name of the builder or donor, with optional

(3)

epithets; A patient phrase, describing the object built or donated;

( 4)

A verbal phrase, highly styli zed and formulaic.

-Terminology

As does any discipline, Sumerology has engendered its own host of technical terms, such as Auslaut, amissable, etc. Some of these terms are peculiar to Sumerologists; they are not standard terms familiar to general linguists. Unfortunately, some of these term s are used in ways which cause general linguists to take umbrage. The term verbal chain is used here to refer to the series of prefixes which occur before the verbal root. Other people use the term to include the entire verb: prefixes-root-suffixes.

Lesson 1

39

Similarly, the tenn nominal chain is sometimes used to refer to a nominal phrase. Sometimes both the verbal chain and the nominal chain are subsumed under the category "Kettenbildung". The term conjugation-prefix, in particular, is misleading, because these elements have nothing to do with conjugation, as this tenn is usually understood. However, this is the only term used by Sumerologists. There is no standard tenn to refer to what is called here the dimensional-prefix; the most common tenn is probably dimensional infix. This use of the tenn infix, however, is often irksome to general linguists, who use the tenn to refer explicitly to an affix placed within another morpheme; an example would be the It/ in the Akkadian Bt stem, or the Arabic Eighth Form.

-ke4

It/ in the Akkadian Bt stem, or the Arabic Eighth Form. -ke4 The value of the

The value of theiMJ sign as ke4 was deduced by Kramer in 19 36. There is no native grammatical tradition which gives this value; the Akkadian lexical lists give the values of this sign as g� and k4 (in addition to such values as kid, etc.) Kramer reasoned that the only way to make the Sumerian writing be consistent with our understanding of the morphology of the Sumerian genitive was to posit a reading ke4 ' even if the lexical lists do not give this value. Virtually all modern scholars have accepted his reasoning. (However, even this seemingly well-established fact of Sumerian grammar has recently been questioned, by Lieberman. He believes that the genitive marker was /ag/, not /ak/, but he has not yet published his reasons for doubting the conventional interpretation.)

his reasons for doubting the conventional interpretation.) -Animacy As was mentioned when discussing the

-Animacy

As was mentioned when discussing the possessive-suffix .ani, Sumerian has traces of an animate - inanimate distinction. This distinction is also seen in the personal-affix of the third-person bamt!!-transitive verb, where .n marks an animate agent, but .b marks an inanimate agent (rather a rare occurrence). This animate - inanimate distinction does not carry through all aspects of the grammar. The tenns animate and inanimate are those traditionally used by linguists, even if this means that animals are called inanimate (Jacobsen prefers the tenns "personal" and "non­ person al"). In fables, however, animals are usually treated grammati cally as animate.

-Conjugation-prefixes

Lambert was quoted above, to the effect that the conjugation-prefixes are simply not translated. This is because it is not known what infonnation they convey, and the odds are that their fu nction has no easy equivalent in English. Edmond Soll berger has said:

Their true rOle is so distinctively Sumerian, they express ideas so alien to our languages, that not only is there no consensus on the nature of their fu nction, but we simply ignore them without impairing, or so it seems to us, our understanding of the text. There is no other translation for mu-gar and i-gar than "(he) placed", although it must be pretty obvious that had there been no

difference there wouldn't have been two

It is legitimate to posit

40

Lesson 1

that a certain verbal fonn implies that the action is perfonned by the subject wishing to indicate that his goal, though within his immediate perception, remains without his actual sphere of physical contact; it is another thing to try and express that in one good English (or even Gennan) word (1973:160-61). F.R. Kraus has criticized this view of Sollberger: "Sollberger's opinion, that Sumerian texts can be understood without paying attention to the verbal prefix, is valid for a certain kind of text, but is certainly not valid fo r legal documents" (19 58:83 n.47).

-Conjugation

The fonns of the bamm-transitive verb in the singular are listed here. This and other paradigms should be understood as reflecting Ur III morphology, in Ur ITI orthography. The model verb used is sar, "to write", with the conjugation-prefix mu.

mu-sar mu-sar mu-sar mu-sar
mu-sar
mu-sar
mu-sar
mu-sar

first person singular second third animate inanimate

mu. 0 .sar mU.e.sar mU.n.sar mu.b.sar

The fonn of the first person is somewhat unsure. The fonn of the second person is more sure, because the .e sometimes shows up in the script. Similarly, the fonns of the third person are "sure", because of the occasional presence of .n and .b in the script. In this section, the personal-affixes .n and .b have been discussed as markers for the third person. Earlier, it was said that they cross-reference the agent. Strictly speaking, they cross-reference a third person agent. A first person agent ("I") is cross-referenced by . 0 , and a second person agent ("you") is cross-referenced by .e. In other words, one can understand the personal-affixes as cross-referencing the agent, or as marking the person of the verb; in Sumerian, these are two different ways of describing the same thing.

-

bamm and marii
bamm and marii

The first person to recognize that bamm and marii were used as native grammatical tenns was Heinrich Zimmern, in 1885, although he did not know what they meant. Paul Haupt was apparently the first to give these words their etymologies as "quick" and "fat",

in 1932.

etymologies as "quick" and "fat", in 1932. - Typology T h e Introduction discussed morphological

- Typology

The Introduction discussed morphological typology, which is one attempt to broadly categorize the languages of the world into a limited number of types. That particular scheme of class ification is somewhat out of favor, partially on theoretical grou nds, and partially oil the grounds that it does not offer more enlightening insights about language. A more revealing scheme of linguistic typology is called "word order typology" (although "constituent order typology" might be a more apt tenn). This scheme examines the "basic" order of the major constituents in a sentence. In English, for example, the most typical order is: subject-verb-object. Hence, English is said to be a S-V-0 language. Sumerian,

Lesson 1

41

on the other hand, is a S-O-V language. S-O-V languages pattern alike in several ways, not just in word order. For example, very few S-O- V languages have prepositions. Instead, they use case-endings at the end of nominal phrases, that is, "postpositions". Also, in most S-O-V languages, adjectives follow their head noun, not precede. As will be seen in Lesson 2, this is also how Sumerian works. Thus, in many ways (not in all), Sumerian is a typical S-O-V language. G. Haayer (1986) discusses some of the characteristics of Sumerian in light of the universal tendencies of language. He points out, for example, that "Most ergative languages have SOY basic word order", and "The combination of ergativity and postpositions in a single language points almost invariably to SOY basic word order"

(1986:80).

- Function of text

Let us now look at the fu nction and Si tz im Leben of this particular text. Hallo has divided the Ur III royal inscriptions into five categories, based on typological criteria:

standard, building, votive, weight, and seal inscriptions. Text 1 is a building inscription; examples will occur of all the other fo ur types. Bu ilding inscriptions are defined by Hallo as "monuments that became integral parts, whether functional or decorative, of the buildings which they commemorated" (1962:8). The building inscriptions are further subdivided on the basis of the type of object they were inscribed on: bricks (the most numerous of all royal inscriptions), foundation deposits, door sockets, and clay cones. Examples will be seen of each. Text 1 was inscribed on a brick, forming an actual part of the masonry of a building. Building inscriptions in general were not designed to be read by the builder's contemporaries; rather, they were designed to be read by future rebuilders of the building, most likely future kings. Ultimately, these buildings and their accompanying inscriptions can be thought of as attempts by rulers to attain some form of immortality. (Text 16 is a door socket with two inscriptions. One is of an early ruler of Ur [about 2400 BC]; the other is of a ruler of the Ur ill period. The door socket was evidently uncovered during rebuilding carried out in the Ur III period, and was re-used.) As will be discussed in Lesson 2, often several copies of the same in scription are fo und.

- History

Throughout Mesopotamian history, temples were built, repaired, modified, or virtually entirely rebuilt. During the Ur III period, there were many specifically royal building projects. Building inscriptions of Ur-Nammu have been found at Ur, Eridu, Larsa, Nippur, and Uruk. He was re sponsible for building (and rebuilding) the large sacred area at Ur, consisting of several structures. The most famous of these is its ziggurat, the best preserved ziggurat in all of Mesopotamia: its base measures some 60 x 40 meters. It was repaired by several later Mesopotamian rulers . (In Lesson 9, Woolley's re construction of Nabonidus' rebuilding of this same ziggurat is pictured.) The following drawing is Woolley's reconstruction of the ziggurat. The following

42

Lesson 1

photo is of the remains now standing; the condition of these remains is partially a result of modem reconstruction ofthe site.

THE

Z ICCU RAT

OF

UR,.-NAMMU

RESTORED.

ofthe site. THE Z ICCU RAT OF UR,.-NAMMU RESTORED. ':.:" · ""' ·
':.:" · ""' · uf.������----�----�----�'----�----�'----�'­
':.:"
·
""' ·
uf.������----�----�----�'----�----�'----�'­
. . .
. .
.

Lesson 1

43

While the sacred area as a whole was dedicated to Nanna, he also had his own coun in

The entire sacred complex was

front of the ziggurat, and other buildings sacred to him.

known as the E-ki-nu-Ml; the ziggurat was known as the E-temen-ni-guru3 (see Lesson 9). Both tenns are of uncertain etymology. The brick containing Text 1 fonned pan of a temple known as the �-bur-sag ("mountain temple"). One of the more famous pieces of Ancient Near Eastern art is known as the "Stela of Ur-Nammu". It was found in a very fragmentary state in Ur, scattered throughout the Nanna temple complex; it may have been destroyed during the Elamite sack of Ur in 2004 BC. It depicts a number of symbolic activities, mostly obscure to us, but apparently shows Ur-Nammu himself carrying building tools (his name appears on a floating fragment of the stela). This stela has been known since the 1920s, but restoration work is still on-going. (A very interesting discussion is in Canby 1987.)

w o r k i s s t i l l o n - g o
w o r k i s s t i l l o n - g o

44

Lesson 1

In Lesson 7, a photograph is reproduced of a figure which represents Ur-Nammu himself (somewhat stylized) in his role as builder. Discussing the function of the Mesopotamian ruler in this role as builder, Wolfgang Heimpel says:

The ruler in Mesopotamia, when building for the gods, manufactured the first brick himself, sprinkled the fo undations with prec ious materials, laid the foundation box, mixed some of the mortar, and led the celebrations of dedication. The best sources for these ceremonies are the building inscriptions of Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian kings and the cylinders of Gudea. The latter contain the most detailed information which is couched in poetic language and presents us with many difficulties of interpretation

(1987:205).

-Literature

In addition to his well-documented role as builder, Ur-Nammu has become famous as the promulgator of the world's first attested law code, the "Code of Ur-Nammu". At least three copies of parts of the text are known, but all are heavily damaged. The largest fragment was fo und at Nippur. In 19 81 a fragment of the Code fo und at Sippar was published. Basing himself on this new fragment, Kramer su ggested that the "au thor" of the Code was not Ur-Nammu, but rather his son Shulgi; this view has won general acceptance. Ur-Nammu was also the subject of several literary works. These include "The Coronation of Ur-Nammu", a kind of self-laudatory hymn, and "The Death of Ur-Nammu and his Descent to the Netherworld", in which his premature death on the battlefield is lamented.

- Proper names

Most recently, Miguel Civil (1 985: 27) transliterates the name of the fo under of the Ur III Dynasty as Ur-Namma, instead of the usual Ur-Nammu. He bases himself on attestations of the name in syllabic orthography. He suggests that the original form of the name was a theoretical IUr-Namnam/. Jacobsen also now reads the original form of the divine name as Namma, but derives INammal from Inin inim/, "lady female genital"; INammu/ is a later form ( 1987: 155 n.5). As will be discussed in Appendix 2, a number of bilingual lexical lists have been fo und at Ebla. Names of gods occur several time s in these lists. For Nammu, the Ebl aite equivalent is given as: �i-nu bf!.-mi-um. This is somewhat difficult to understand. F.M. Fales thinks that the Eblaite expression might mean "venemous tooth" (1984: 176). It is hard to square such a description or epithet with what is known about Nammu.

a description or epithet with what is known about Nammu. -Titulature Many of the appositive phrases

-Titulature

Many of the appositive phrases describing the king in these inscriptions are actually

titles, occurring in many inscriptions. (Although sometimes it is not possible to tell if an

adjectival phrase is a title or not.)

certain titles, their relationship to parallel Akkadian titles, their falling into desuetude, etc.

Much work has been done in determining the origin of

Lesson 1

45

Lesson 1 4 5 T h e p r i n c i p a l

The principal work on this topic is by Hallo: Early Mesopotamian Royal Titles: A Philo­

mic and Historical Analysis
mic
and
Historical
Analysis

(19 57).

This was fo llowed by M.-J. Seux in 19 67, who

studied in particular the individual words occuring in Sumerian and Akkadian titles.

The title used in Text 1, "King of Ur", was used by all five kings of the Ur III

Dynasty.

Lesson 2

Text 2 is a second building inscription of Ur-Namrnu. fonning part of the Inanna temple (see Lesson 9).

It was inscribed on a brick,

i n s c r i b e d o n a b ri c k

Sign-list and vocabulary

AT

Inanna

(DN, fern)

.JJ AJJ)J Ki-m -g i � i93: Ki-uri Akkad (ON) l:.1 nitab (nita) man, male
.JJ
AJJ)J
Ki-m -g i
i93:
Ki-uri
Akkad (ON)
l:.1
nitab (nita)
man, male

Sumer (ON)

47

48

Lesson 2

ID

kalag (kala)
kalag (kala)

g�

to be mighty

Notes

Inanna The daughter of Nanna. She was the Su meri an goddess of love and fertility, of the morning and evening star, and to some degree of war; she had other sides as well. She may have absorbed some of the attributes of originally independent deities. Later equated with the Akkadian Ishtar, in some ways she was the most important goddess in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Because of her rather fiery temperament, and the manifold aspects of her personality, she is perhaps the most interesting of all Mesopotamian deities. She was worshipped in many cities, but especially in Uruk, where she was the tutelary goddess. Her principal temple at Uruk was the Eanna �- an-na = e.an.a(k), "house of the sky/heaven"). The reading of her name is much disputed. It is also transliterated as: Inana, Innin, and Ninni6' The original pictographic meaning of the cuneiform sign is also uncertain. Her name is usually interpreted as: nin.an.a(k), "Lady of the sky/heaven". This is also how the Akkadian scribes understood her name. Jacobsen believes that Inanna was originally the "numen of the communal storehouse for dates". He thinks that the / ani -component of her

name meant "date-clusters": "Her name

of her name meant "date-clusters": "Her name would appear to have meant originally 'the lady of

would appear to have meant originally 'the lady

of the date-clusters ' " (1 957:108); later, her name was "re-interpreted" as "lady of the sky/heaven".

Ki-en-gi This ON is always written syllabically. The etymology is unsure; this is dis­ cussed below. The word ended in a /r/, not re flected in the script. The Akkadian equi­ valent of Kiengi was Sumeru. This Akkadian word may be a dialectal pronunciation of the word Kiengi(r). The English word "S umer" is usually thought to deri ve fro m the Ak­ kadian form. The first appearance of Ki-en-gi is in an inscription of Enshakushanna of Uruk (who ruled approximately 2432-2403 BC), who refers to himself as: en-Ki-en-gi l!!gal-kalam­ ma, "the lord of Sumer, the king of the land".

ma, "the lord of Sumer, the king of the land". Ki-uri The etymology is unknown. It
ma, "the lord of Sumer, the king of the land". Ki-uri The etymology is unknown. It

Ki-uri The etymology is unknown. It is not impossible that the ki-element was originally a determinative.

nitab The basic meaning appears to be "male"; it can often be loosely translated as "man". The Akkadian equivalent is zikaru, glossed by the CAD as: "1. male (human and animal), 2. man, 3. ram".

"1. male (human and animal), 2. man, 3. ram". kalag The Akkadian equivalent verb, dananu, is

kalag The Akkadian equivalent verb, dananu, is translated by the CAD as: "to become strong". The verbal adjective, dannu, is translated as: "1) solid, strong, hard, heavy, thick, massive, fortified, steady, loud, 2) legitimate, binding, reliable, 3) strong, powerful, mighty, great, 4) fierce, savage, difficult, dangerous, serious, grave, obstinate, bad, tyrannical, harsh, pressing, urgent, essential, imperative".

Lesson 2

Text 2

bJHf>�� *tH � rtJf> �1=1 ��r-i 1\���Bm l!:f *� mI3 ff J?> �IB� *7��
bJHf>��
*tH
� rtJf>
�1=1
��r-i
1\���Bm
l!:f *�
mI3 ff J?>
�IB�
*7��

Notes

Some of the signs which occur both in Text 1 and in Text 2 differ slightly from ea other. In Text 2, the �-sign and the ke4-sign differ only in their length. In Text 1 they we of the same length, but differed in the position and length of the vertic als. Strictly speakir the sign-shapes in Text 2 are more "correct". In line 6, the word Ki-en-gi is divided into two lines within the one case.

in Text 2 are more "correct". In line 6, the word Ki-en-gi is divided into two

5

0

Lesson 2

Transliteration

d lnanna

Transcription

Inanna

Translation

For Inanna,

his lady ­

Ur-Nammu,

the mighty man,

the king of Ur,

the king of Sumer and Akkad ­

her temple -

he built.

1:

2:

3:

4:

5:

6:

7:

8:

nin-�-ni Ur_ d Nammu nitab-kalag-g� · ki .J!gru- I I U nm 5 -ma �-�-ni
nin-�-ni
Ur_ d Nammu
nitab-kalag-g�
·
ki
.J!gru-
I
I U nm 5
-ma
�-�-ni
e.anL0
mu-na-du

nin.ani.(r)

Urnammu

nitab·kalaga

lugal.Uri m.a(k)

lugal-Ki-en-gi-Ki-uri-ke4 lugal.KiengLKiuri.k.e

mu.na.(n.)du.0

Commentary

2.

nin-�-ni = nin.anL (r), as in Text 1. Here the nominal phrase expressing the benefactive

consists of the DN and an appositive, which itself consists of a noun with a possessive­ suffix. In this text, nin is used to refer to a goddess. This is the more normal practice; in Text

1, nin referred to a god.

4.

nitab-kalag-g� = nitab.kalaga. nitab is one of several Sumerian words meaning approx­

imately "man". kalag-gi!, representing Ikalaga/, is an adjective meaning "mighty". Many adjectives in Su merian end in la/, representing a morp heme .a. This .a has many uses: formation of adjectives from verbal roots; nomi nali zation of verbal phrases; marking of certain kinds of subordinate clauses; etc. It is sometimes called a "nominalizer" or "nominalizing particle" (although such terms do not cover all its uses). For convenience sake, the term "nominali zer" will be used here . In this particular case, the adjective Ikalagal is fo rmed from the verbal root Ikalag/, by the addition of the nominalizer Ial. Since the nominalizer

.a is "built into" the adjective, it is not separated-out in transcription. That is, it is transcribed as: kalaga, and not as: kalag.a. This is further discussed in Lesson 6.

Some Sumerologists prefer to say that Sumerian has no real (morphological) class of adjectives, but instead has two kinds of "participles", one of which ends in the nominalizer la/. For convenience sake, however, the traditional term adjective is retained here. The two cuneiform signs of the adjective are here transliterated as kalag-gi!. However,

the adjective are here transliterated as kalag-gi!. However, the same two signs of this word are

the same two signs of this word are often transliterated as kala-gf

If one looks in the stan­

dard sign-lists for this particular sign (ID), it is given the values kal, kala, kalag, kalag�,

and even kal�. Probably all Sumerol ogists would say that the word for "mighty" was formed from two morphemes: the root Ikalagl with the addition of the nominalizer la/. They would also say that the word was probably pronounced something like Ikalaga/. (There are late, syllabic spellings of this word as kal-Ia-g�, etc .) But exactly how do the two written signs convey this information? There have been three approaches to the problem. One view is to see the first sign as representing the entire word Ikalaga/. In this case, the following �-

the problem. One view is to see the first sign as representing the entire word Ikalaga/.

Lesson 2

SI

sign would be a kind of "phonetic complement": It gives some extra information to the reader, helping him to choose the correct reading of the previous sign. The word might then be transliterated as: kalag� ga .

A second view attempts to make the signs approach the transcription. Since this word

is pronounced Ikalaga/, and since the Igal is expressed by the g�-sign, this view says that the first sign must therefore be read Ikala/: kala-g�. Thus, this view really derives the transl iteration from the transcription. The third view says that the transliteration should not necessarily be expected to fit the transcription. Rather, there are certain general rules of Sumerian orthography which are found in several different contexts. In this particular case, the transliteration kalag-g!!. reflects the orthograp hic rule that a consonant is graphically reduplicated before a word­ final (occasionally syllable-final) vowel, particularly across a morpheme boundary. For example, in Text 1 there occurred: nin-an-na, for nin.an.a(k). The entire problem is not easy to re solve. Several obvious questions come to mind:

How can one know, for in stance, that the sign ID can, in fact, be read as kal, or kala, or kalag, or kalag�, or kalg�? To what extent are readings "manufactured", to make the trans­ literation more closely approximate the transcription? How valid is the general rule of Sumerian orthography presented above? In practice, inconsistencies arise in transliteration, because no matter which tran sliteration system is fo llowed, the meaning is normally clear. Whether these two signs are understood as kalag� ga , kalag-g� or as kala-g�, everyone would understand the pronun­ ciation to be Ikalaga/, and the meaning to be "mighty". (Even here, however, some Sume­ rologists would say that the original form */kalagal > Ikalga/. It is true that similar cases of vocalic loss are attested in Sumerian. However, the [late] syllabic writings of the type kal-Ia-g!!. would seem to argue against such an interpretation in this particular case.) Therefore, some Sumerologists prefer not to deal with these problems, unless they are interested in the writing system per se. This problem has been discussed at some length, because it is useful to be aware of the theoretical principles which underpin our understanding of the writing system. This type of knowledge is also essential if one is to understand borrowings of the Sumerian writing system, such as, e.g., the writing system used for Eblaite. And, it is important to be

prepared for (and to understand the reasons for) the inconsistencies and variations in transliteration which are encountered in Sumerological literature.

o n which are encountered in Sumerological literature. In general, adjectives in Su merian follow the
o n which are encountered in Sumerological literature. In general, adjectives in Su merian follow the
o n which are encountered in Sumerological literature. In general, adjectives in Su merian follow the

In general, adjectives in Su merian follow the noun they modify.

5. illgal-Urims ki -ma = lugal.Urim.a(k), "king of Ur". Just as both kalag-� and kala-g� are fo und in transliterations of the same two signs, so also these signs are fo und trans­ literated as Urims ki -ma and Uris kC ma.

6.

Sumerian has a conjunction meaning "and", linking nouns, but it is relatively uncommon. Instead, Sumerian prefers to conjoin two nouns directly: an-ki "heaven and earth".

The first element of the genitive phrase is the single noun lugal. The second element is formed by the two conjoined nouns, KiengLKiuri. The genitive marker .k follows the two

nouns, KiengLKiuri. The genitive marker .k follows the two lugal-Ki-en-gi-Ki-Uri-ke4 = lugal.KiengLKiuri.k.e. ,
nouns, KiengLKiuri. The genitive marker .k follows the two lugal-Ki-en-gi-Ki-Uri-ke4 = lugal.KiengLKiuri.k.e. ,

lugal-Ki-en-gi-Ki-Uri-ke4 = lugal.KiengLKiuri.k.e. , "king of Sumer and Akkad".

52

Lesson 2

elements. This can be diagrammed as: lugal.[Kiengi.Kiuri] .k. It is possible for either element of a genitive phrase to be even more complex, consisting of a noun with a possessive-suffix, an adjective, a relative clause, etc. Lines 3-6 form a long nominal phrase, ending in the ergative case-marker .e. This nominal phrase consists of: a personal name (line 3) ; an appositive consisting of a noun and an adjective (line 4); a second appositive consisting of a genitive phrase (line 5); and a third appositive, consisting of a more complex genitive phrase (line 6).

Discussion:

structure

It is instructive to compare the structure of Text 1 and Text 2:

Text 1:

[Nanna, nin.an.a(k), nin.ani] .(r) [Urnammu, lugal.Urim.ak] .e

[e.ani].0

mu.na.(n.)du.0

Text 2:

[Inanna, nin.ani] .(r) [Urnammu,nitag.kalaga,lugal.Urim.a(k), Iugal.KiengLKiuri.k].e

[e.ani].0

mu.na.(n.)du.0

benefactive

agent

patient

verb

benefactive

mu.na.(n.)du.0 benefactive agent patient verb benefactive agent patient verb The order of the constituents is the

agent

patient

verb

The order of the constituents is the same. As mentioned in Lesson 1, the constituent order in these inscriptions is quite formulaic. The di fference in the two in scriptions is in the length of the various nominal phrases, and not in the basic structure.

- Brick-stamps

The cuneiform signs in this text are much more "linear" than those of Text 1. This is because Text 1 was "handwritten" by a particular scribe. Text 2 was produced by a "brick­ stamp". Brick-stamps were used to mass-produce copies of inscriptions. The writing on them is done in reverse ("mirror-writing"), so that the impression comes out correctly. The shape of the signs used tends to be linear, although occasionally they can approach the shape of the handwritten signs. Several brick-stamps have been preserved, although apparently none from the Ur III period. The following illustrations are of brick-stamps from the Old Akkadian period:

Lesson 2

53

Lesson 2 53 -Caserelationships .ra and the other case-markers in Sumerian are variously referred to as
Lesson 2 53 -Caserelationships .ra and the other case-markers in Sumerian are variously referred to as

-Caserelationships

.ra and the other case-markers in Sumerian are variously referred to as "cases", "case­ markers", "case-endings", "postpositions", "postfixes", etc. Strictly speaking, these tenns are not all synonymous, because they do not all refer to the same level of analysis. The tenn "dative case", for example, refers purely to a grammatical relationship. This case can be used to indicate several different semantic relationships: indirect object, benefactive, etc. "Dative case-marker" or "case-ending" refers to the specific fonnal device which signals this grammatical relationship, that is, the .ra. "Postposition" or "postfix" means that the case-marker occurs at the end of a nominal phrase. (This contrasts with English, for example, where "prepositions" occur in front of a nominal phrase.) Thus, in Text 1 and 2, .ra can be described as a postpositive case-marker of the dative case, used to expressthe bepefactive. Although these tenns are distinct, in practice they are often used somewhat indiscriminately. This is because it will normally be clear from the context which level of analysis is being referred to. Similarly, the dimensional-prefixes are sometimes said to

54

Lesson 2

cross-reference the cases, and at other times are said to cross-reference the case-endings. Strictly speaking, they cross-reference the case relationships which are marked by the case­ endings. For ease of exposition, however, it is usually easier to present them as cross­ referencing the case-endings themselves.

- Genitives and cases

The genitive does not behave like the (other) cases in Sumerian, and so it is occasionally referred to as a "genitive marker", instead of as a case. First, a genitive phrase can be embedded within a nominal phrase, which can then have its own case-marker. That is, the genitive can be cumulative with respect to the (other) cases. For example, the genitive can be directly followed by the ergative case-marker .e, as in Text 1 and Text 2. The (other) cases, however, are not cumulative with respect to each other. If a nominal phrase has the dative case-marker, for example, it is impossible for it to have any other case-marker. Second, the genitive is not resumed by any dimensional -prefix. The dative, for example, is resumed by the dimensional-prefix .na. However, the genitive is not resumed. The reason for the difference in behavior is because of the different r6le which the genitive plays in a sentence. Genitives relate noun phrases to noun phrases. But the (other) cases re late noun phrases to verb phrases. That is, genitives and cases perform two different fu nctions. However, "case" is the term most frequently encou ntered in Sumerological literature. Some scholars use the term "adnominal" case to refer to the genitive and to the equitative (to be mentioned later). Both can be cumulative, and neither is resumed by any dimensional-prefix. The ergative and absolute cases pattern together, in that they are the only cases cross­ referenced in the immediately pre- and post-verbal root slot. (In some ergative languages, verbal cross-referencing only occurs with the agent and the patient, and not with any other case relationship.) The cases besides the ergative, absolute, genitive, and equitative are referred to as "adverbial". They include the fo llowing; they will be studied in subsequent lessons:

dative; terminative; locative; locative-terminative; comitative; ablative. Some scholars use the term "oblique" instead of "adverbial"; others use the term "dimensional". The latter is rather nice, since these cases are the only ones to be cross-referenced by the dimensional­ prefixes. To sum up, the Sumerian cases may be categorized as:

primary

(ergative; absolute)

 

adverbial

(dative;

terminative;

locative;

locative-terminative; comitative;

adnominal

ablative) (genitive; equitative)

 

- Earlier views of genitive

It was Poebel who definitively established the form and function of the Sumerian

Lesson 2

55

Dan gin saw the genitive in Su merian as being formed in two di ffere nt ways: either by simple "juxtaposition" of two nouns (lyw-uru, "king-city" = "king of the city"), or by an ending .a of a "general indirect case". He thought that the Ikl which appears when a vowel follows the genitive marker was "inorganic"; it was a "hiatus-breaker" to avoid a sequence of two vowels. Poebel effectively destroyed Thureau-Dangin's views, but traces of the latter are still encountered in some works. Poebel ' s work was further elaborated by

Jacobsen (1973).